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Spirituál Theology 



The present volume was written in response to numerous requests for a complete and definitivě 
work on Christian spirituality. It is not an entirely new work, however, for some sections are 
taken substantially from The Theology of Christian Perfection by Antonio Royo and Jordán 
Aumann, published in 1962 by Priory Press. 

Spirituál theology is both speculative and practical, but it is eminently practical because it deals 
with Christian life in relation to the perfection of charity. Consequently, the study of the theology 
of Christian perfection should proceed scientifically and systematically, although its aim is not to 
produce scholars but to form holý Christians. Therefore the first part of this volume investigates 
the theological principles of Christian holiness; the second part deduces from those principles the 
generál directives by which souls can be guided in their journey to the goal of the Christian life. 

The theology contained in this volume is based on the spirituál doctrine of three Doctors of the 
Church: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila. Moreover, it is fully 
in accord with the teaching of John G. Arintero and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. 

A finál word of thanks is due to Laura Gillet, John Osman, Michael Balaria, and Sister Veronica 
Marie. They were most generous in contributing their time and labor in the typing of the 


In Spirituál Theology Father Jordán Aumann dispels the common misconception that ascetical 
and mystical theology is for the select few. He reminds us that "the reál purpose of the study of 
the spirituál life is not to produce scholars but to form holý Christians." 

Basing much of his work on St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa, Father 
Aumann proves that Christian perfection consists especially in charity, a charity richly rewarded 
in spirituál graces. 

He presents the most complete and systematic treatment of spirituál theology since Vatican II. 
Comprehensive in scope, it meets the needs of seminarians, professors of spirituál theology, 
spirituál directors, and retreat masters. This classic will also appeal to the educated reader 
seeking a richer and fuller spirituál life. 

JORDÁN AUMANN, O.P. is a native of the United States and Director of the Institute of 
Spirituality at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Róme. He is also a Consultor 
for the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy and Catechetics and likewise a Consultor for the 
Sacred Congregation for Evangelization. Since 1977 he has been giving speciál courses in 
spirituality at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, where he is an 

honoráry professor. He has likewise travelled extensively throughout the Philippines to give 
retreats to the clergy, and retreats and speciál series of lectures to religious and seminarians. 
Father Aumann has also written the book History of Spirituality published in the Philippines by 
St. Paul Publications. 



l.Nature and Scope of Spirituál Theology 

Spirituality and Theology 
Definition of Spirituál Theology 
Theological Method 
Sources of Spirituál Theology 
Schools of Spirituality 
2.The G oal of Our Strivinq 
Salvation - The Life of Glory 

3. Our Life in Christ and Mary 

Scriptural Testimony 

Christ the Wav 

Christ the Truth 

Christ the Life 

Through Him, With Him, In Him 

Mary - Mother and Mediatrix 

4. The Supernatural Organism 

Effectsof Grace 

Indwelling of the Trinity 

Actual Grace 


The Giftsof the Holý Spirit 

Fruits of the Spirit and Beatitudes 

5. Perfection of the Christian Life 

The Nature of Christian Perfection 
Speciál Questions 

6. Christian Perfection and Mystical Experience 

Mystical Experience 

The Mystical State and Christian Perfection 

7. Converáon From Sin 

The Psychosomatic Stnicture 
The Struggle Against Sin 

8. Progressive Purqation 

Purification of the Extemal Senses 
Purification of the Intemal Senses 
Purification of the Passions 
Purification of the Intellect 
Purification of the Will 
Passive Purgations 

9. Means of Spirituál Growth 

The Sacraments 
Meritorious Good Works 
Prayer of Petition 

10. The Theoloqical Virtues 


The Gift of Understanding 

The Gift ofKnowledqe 


The Gift ofFear 


The Gift ofWisdom 

11. The M oral Virtues 

The Gift ofCounsel 


The Gift of Piety 


The Gift ofFear 


The Gift ofFortitude 

12. Grades of Prayer 
Vocal Prayer 
Affective Prayer 
Prayer of Simplicity 
Contemplative Prayer 
Prayer of Quiet 
Prayer of Union 

Prayer of Conforming Union 
Prayer of Transforming Union 

13. Aids to Spirituál Growth 

The Presence ofG od 
Examination of Conscience 
The Desire for Perfection 
Conformity to Goďs Will 
Fidelity to Grace 
Pian of Life 
Spirituál Reading 
Holý Friendships 
Spirituál Direction 

14. Discernment of Spirits 
Types of Spirits 
Psychosomatic Phenomena 
Extraordinary Mystical Phenomena 

Doctrinal Foundations 

Nátuře and Scope of Spirituál Theology 

Although treatises on the spirituál life can be found in the writings of the earliest theologians and 
Fathers of the Church, spirituál theology did not emenge as a distinct and well-defined branch of 
sacred doctrine until the eighteenth century. Traditionally, sacred doctrine possessed a 
remarkable unity that was at once the test of doctrinal orthodoxy and a sign of authentic theology 
-- the science that studies God and all things in relation to God. 

However, by the time of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the attacks of heresy and the 
changing political, cultural, and religious conditions made it necessary for theologians to 
investigate the truths of faith more deeply. The result was that sacred doctrine gradually became 
more diversified, and was ultimately divided into areas of specialization or distinct branches of 
the one theology. 


What is now called spirituál theology has been designated by various names throughout the 
history of theology. Some háve called it simply spirituality; others háve named it spirituál life; 

devoutlife; supematural life; interior life; mystical evolution; and theology of Christian 
perf ection. The terms first ušed and still commonly ušed to designate the systematic theology of 
the spirituál life are ascetical theology and mystical theology, although these words do not háve 
the samé meaning for all theologians. 

The word ascetical comes from the Greek askeein, meaning to practice or exercise in order to 
acguire a skill, especially an athletic skill. Later the word came to mean the study of philosophy 
or the practice of virtue, and it was ušed in this sense by Greek philosophers. St. Paul uses the 
word only once, in Acts 24:16, but he freguently draws the comparison between the practices of 
the Christian life and athletic exercises (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:13-14; 2 Tim. 4:28; gimnazein in 
1 Tim. 4:7-8, Heb. 5:14, and 12:11 designates spirituál striving). Among the early Christians the 
name ascetics was given to those who observed continence under the vow of chastity, from 
which it was ultimately applied to the practices of the monastic life. It seems that a Polish 
Franciscan named Dobrosielski introduced the word ascetical into the Latin usage of western 
theology in 1655, and between 1752 and 1754 the Italian Jesuit Scaramelli ušed the term in 
contradistinction to the older word mystical. 

The term mystical, also from the Greek (mystikos), originally referred to secret or hidden rites 
known only to the initiated. The noun mysterion is ušed in the Book of Daniel and also in the 
Deuterocanonical books; in the New Testament it is ušed by St. Paul to signify a secret of God 
pertaining to man's salvation, the hidden or symbolic sense of a narration, or anything whose 
activity or power is hidden. The adjective mystical is not found in the New Testament or in the 
writings of the Apostolic Fathers; it was introduced only in the third century, and with the 
passage of time it assumed three meanings: liturgically, it referred to religious cult; exegetically, 
it signified an allegorical or a typical interpretation of Scripture as distinct from the literal sense; 
theologically, it meant a more profound knowledge of the truths of faith -- knowledge not shared 
by all. 

In the fourth century the expression mystical theology is found in the writings of Marcellus 
Ancyranus; in the fifth century, in the writings of Marcus Eremita; and the expression was 
introduced into western theology at the beginning of the sixth century by the PseudoDionysius, 
author of De mystica theologia. By this time the word mystical designated not only the superior 
and deeper knowledge formerly known as gnosis but also an experiential, intuitive knowledge of 
the divine. Gradually the word was identified with contemplation, and treatises on the subject 
tended to become more abstract and scientific. 

John Gerson (1363-1429), chancellor of the University of Paris, made a further distinction in his 
treatise, On Mystical Theology, Speculative and Practical, and speculative mystical theology was 
extended to include the whole theology of the spirituál life, from first conversion to the full 
experience of the mystical life. Early in the 1750s Scaramelli introduced the distinction between 
ascetical and mystical theology, and the latter was again restricted to the study of contemplation 
and the extraordinary mystical graces. In modern times two Dominicans, Reginald 
Garrigou-Lagrange and John Arintero, defended and restored the traditional teaching: there is but 
one path to Christian perfection, though it admits of ascetical and mystical stages, and the 
mystical life is not the result of extraordinary graces but the normál development and perfection 
of the grace received by every Christian at baptism. Vatican Council II made this samé doctrine 
its own when it stated: 

The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of 
which he is the author and maker) to each and every one of his disciples without 
distinction: "In a word, you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" 
(Matt. 5:48). For he sent the Holý Spirit to all to move them interiorly to love God with 
their whole heart, with their whole soul, with their whole understanding, and with their 
whole strength (cf. Mark 12:30), and to love one another as Christ loved them (cf. John 
13:34; 15:12) .... It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any statě or walk of life 
are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love .... The forms and 
tasks of life are many but holiness is one -- that sanctity which is cultivated by all who act 
under Goďs Spirit and, obeying the Fatheťs voice and adoring God the Father in spirit 
and in truth, follow Christ poor, humble and cross-bearing, that they may deserve to be 
partakers of his qlory.(l) 

In view of the historical development of the terminology, it is not surprising that modern 
theologians do not agree on the meaning of the words ascetical and mystical. All the more 
reason, then, for students of ascetico- mystical theology to familiarize themselves with the 
variations in vocabulary before attempting to evaluate an authoťs teaching. 

Modern authors will usually fall into one of the following categories in their use of the words 
ascetical and mystical: 

1. The terms are convertible, and either one can be ušed to designate the entire field of spirituál 

2. Ascetical theology studies the spirituál life from its beginning to the threshold of infused 
contemplation; mystical theology treats the stages of infused contemplation, passive purgation, 
and the transforming union. 

3. Ascetical theology investigates the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways so far as ordinary 
grace is the operative principle in each; mystical theology is restricted to infused contemplation 
as an effect of extraordinary grace and to the epiphenomena that sometimes accompany infused 

4. Ascetical theology treats of the purgative and illuminative ways; mystical theology studies the 
unitive way. 

5. The distinction between the ascetical and the mystical aspects of the spirituál life is 
determined by the predominance of the acquired and infused virtues (ascetical theology) or the 
predominance of the gifts of the Holý Spirit (mystical theology). 

Other theologians, fundamentally in agreement with this teaching, distinguish between the 
activity and passivity of the soul so far as it operates under grace and the virtues (ascetical) or 
under the movement of the Holý Spirit through his gifts (mystical). 

6. In Protestant theology the word asceticism usually refers to the practices of mortification and 
self-denial; mysticism signifies any experiential knowledge of suprasensible things, including 
occultism,, spiritualism, religious ecstasy, and extraordinary psychic phenomena. Many 
contemporary Protestant theologians rejectthe terms ascetical and mystical and preferto speak 
of piety, pietism, or Christian lifestyle. 

Because of the discrepancies in the use of the terms ascetical and mystical, there is no 
universally accepted name for the theology of Christian perfection. We preferthe succinct title, 
spirituál theology. It has the advantage of including both the ascetical and the mystical elements 
of the Christian life without implying an exaggerated dichotomy between the two. Moreover, it 
emphasizes the fundamental unity of the spirituál life, which culminates in the samé perfection 
for all; it signifies that this perfection is a spirituál or supematural perfection; and it classifies the 
theology of Christian holiness as a branch or specialization of theology. 

The distinction between the ascetical and the mystical is not without foundation on the existential 
level, for at any given moment in the spirituál life the ascetical or the mystical aspect will 
predominate, and therefore it is perfectly legitimate to isolate one from the other for the purposes 
of investigation. However, the total view, of the spirituál life should always embrace both 
aspects, since mysticism cannot be understood -- much less experienced -- without a concomitant 
asceticism, and any authentic Christian asceticism contains within itself the seed of the mystical 

Spirituality and Theology 

To formulate a definition of spirituál theology it is first necessary to make some precisions 
concerning the concepts spirituality and theology as they apply to the study of Christian 
perfection. In its widest sense, spirituality refers to any religious or ethical value that is 
concretized as an attitude or spirit from which one's actions flow. This concept of spirituality is 
not restricted to any particular religion; it applies to any person who has a belief in the divine or 
transcendent, and fashions a lifestyle according to one's religious convictions. In this context one 
can speak of Zen, Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim spirituality as well as Christian spirituality. 

However, the comparative study of Christian and non-Christian spiritualities belongs to the field 
of religious psychology rather than theology. Spirituality does not become an area of theological 
study .and investigation until it fits the description given by Paul Evdokimov: "the life of man 
facing his God, participating in the life of God; the spirit of man listening for the Spirit of 
God."í2) The spirituál life in this more restricted sense is a supematural life, and this seems to be 
in accord with biblical usage, where the word spiritus or pneuma refers to a divine power and 
therefore to the supematural. 

In the strict sense of the word, the only authentic spirituality is a spirituality centered in Jesus 
Christ and through him to the Trinity. This is trne not only because created grace, the vital 
principle of the spirituál life, comes to us only through the mediation of Jesus Christ, but also 
because those who cultivate the spirituál life must consciously or unconsciously follow the 
teachings of Christ, regardless of :their religious affiliation. Vatican Council II has promulgated 
this ,doctrine in the declaration on non-Christian religions: 

The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is trne and holý in these religions. She has a 
high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, 
although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray 
of that truth which enlightens all men. Y et she proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim 
without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). In him, in whom 
God reconciled all things to himself (2 Con 5:18-19), men find the fullness of the 
religious life.(3) 

Again, speaking of the Church in the modem world, the Council affirms that there is only one 
spirituality for all, and it consists in a participation in the mystery of Christ: 

In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly 
becomes clear .... Christ the Lord ... fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his 
most high calling .... The Christian is certainly bound both by need and by duty to 
struggle with evil through many afflictions and to suffer death; but ; as one who has been 
made a part in the paschal mystery, and as one who has been configured to the death of 
Christ ne will go forward, strengthened by hope, to the resurrection. All this holds true 
not for Christians only but also for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active 
invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the 
samé destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holý Spirit offers to all the 
possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery. (4) 

Christian spirituality is therefore a participation in the mystery of Christ through the interior life 
of grace, actuated by faith, charity, and the other Christian virtues. The life that the individual 
receives through participation in Christ is the samé life that animated the God- man, the life that 
the Incamate Word shares with the Father and the Holý Spirit; it is, therefore, the life of God in 
the august mystery of the Trinity. Through Christ, the spirituál life of the Christian is eminently 

The difficulty in constructing a theology of the spirituál life consists in the fact that the spirituál 
life is at once a mystery and a problém. It is a mystery precisely because it is life, indeed divine 
life, a sharing in the Christ-life. Thus, St. John says: "Whatever came to be in him, found life, 
life for the light of men. The light shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it" 
(John 1:4-5). St. Paul writes: "Yourlife is hiddennow with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). Although 
one may experience this life in the depths of his being as a life of union with God, it is 
nevertheless ineffable because the supematural and the divine transcend human comprehension. 
For this reason the mystics made use of such expressions as "ray of darkness," "negative 
theology," and "cloud of unknowing." 

Spirituality becomes a "problém" when it is made the object of study and investigation, and this 
involves a transition from life to doctrine, from the intuitive knowledge of experience to the 
scientific knowledge of systematic theology. Accordingly, the field of spirituál literatuře can be 
divided into three types of writing: (1) that which exhorts the reader to greater perfection and 
provides instruction for that purpose; (2) that which reconds and describes the religious 
experience of holý Christians and mystics; and (3) that which makes a scientific study of the 
nature of Christian perfection and the means to attain it. 

The first type of writing is exemplified by The Imitation of Christ, Introduction to theDevout 
Life, and the works of Louis of Granada. The second type comprises autobiographical accounts 
composed by mystics themselves or speciál studies by experts in the field of religious 
experience. The third type includes systematic studies of spirituality, and this is spirituál 
theology in the strict sense, as evidenced in the works of John Arintero, Reginald 
Garrigou-Lagrange, Auguste Poulain, and Adolphe Tanguerey. Sometimes, however, a work 
may be a combination of several types of writing. Thus, the writings of St. Teresa of Avila are 
both instructive and autobiographical (the first and second types), whereas the treatises of St. 
John of the Cross are a combination of all three types, but predominantly instructive and 


The present volume treats of spirituality in a scientific manner, and since its object of 
investigation is tne spirituál life, which is of tne supernatural order, tne only way to study it 
scientificalry is by tne way of theology. Therefore, the method of investigation must be one that 
is properte theology. Finally, the conclusions drawn from the study must be generál enough to 
serve as norms or directives of the spirituál life, since we are dealing with an applied and a 
practical science. Unless these reguisites are met there can be no possibility of a spirituál 

Without going into the history of the origin and uses of the word theology, it should be noted that 
the nature and methods of theology háve been subjected to rigorous scrutiny by numerous 
modem theologians. The traditional concept of theology was that of a science that studies God as 
revealed to mankind in the mysteries of his intimate life and all things else as related to God. For 
St. Thomas Aguinas, an outstanding exponent of the traditional concept sacred doctrine is 
principally a speculative science because it seeks knowledge through causes and deduces 
conclusions from principles according to the rules of logic. 

The primary function of the theologian is to investigate the truths of divine revelation, arrange 
them according to a logical subordination, and arrive at conclusions that are substantiated by the 
certitude of faith and the rational process of demonstration. Etienne Gilson applied this 
traditional concept of theology to the theology of the spirituál life in the following way: 

Since this life is ultimately nothing other than a communication of divine life to the sout 
everything that one says of it enters directly into our science of God, which is theology 
.... Since it is the guestion of a science, this teaching will treat of the nature of the divine 
life and the generál laws according to which it is communicated to the human soul; since 
it is the guestion of a science that is principally speculative, this teaching will be 
concerned primarily with the theoretical knowledge of this nature and of these laws; and 
since, finally, it is the guestion of a sacred science, and very particularly of a part of 
theology, this teaching will háve no other method than that of theology itself : it will 
proceed dogmatically, starting from the word of God, of which the Church is the 
custodian and interpreter ....Based as it is on the authority of the word of God, the 
theology of the spirituál life itself proceeds by the way of authority .... It states 
dogmatically the laws which every authentic spirituál life ought to obey, because these 
laws are deduced from its origin and its end.(5) 

However, in špite of the clarity and certitude that proceed from the logical demonstration ušed in 
Scholastic theology, some modem authors háve raised objections to the Scholastic method and 
háve argued that spirituál theology should be described as theology in a wider and more flexible 
context. First, they maintain that this is the only way to avoid an a priori definition of spirituál 
theology. Second, the Scholastic emphasis on the unity of theology seems to obliterate the 
distinction between spirituál theology and the other branches of theology. Third, and most 
important, the spirituál life is a dynamic and interior mystery that accommodates itself to the 
personality and existential situation of the individual Christian; therefore the theology of the 
spirituál life ought to treat of individual cases, particular charisms, and extraordinary 
phenomena, which do not pertain to theology as a science. 

We are thus confronted with the perennial problems of the knowledge of particulars within ťhe 
scope of a given science and the application of generál laws to individual cases. Some modem 
theologians are seeking what Y ves Congar described as a reflective type of theology that 
"philosophizes on the whole Christian reality, illuminated, if you wilL by the existential 
experience of man."{6) To justify their claim, they will point to the different approach and 
method in the works of St. John of the Cross as compared with the Summa theologiae of St. 
Thomas Aguinas. 

The basic issue is the distinction between systematic moral theology and the practical, 
specialized theology of the spirituál life. Some years ago the guestion was disputed at length by 
renowned theologians such as Santiago Ramirez, Jacgues Maritain, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, 
and Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, but rather than repeat all the arguments, it will suffice to 
guote the conclusions of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange: 

Theology is the science of God. We distinguish between natural theology or theodicy, 
which knows God by the sole light of reason, and supernatural theology, which proceeds 
from divine revelation, examines its contents, and deduces the conseguences of the truths 
of faith. 

Supernatural theology is usually divided into two parts, dogmatic and moral. Dogmatic 
theology has to do with revealed mysteries, principally the Blessed Trinity, the 
Incarnation, the Redemption, the Holý Eucharist and the other sacraments, and the future 
life. Moral theology treats of human acts, of revealed precepts and counsels, of grace, of 
the Christian virtues, both theological and moral, and of the gifts of the Holý Spirit, 
which are principles of action ordained to the supernatural end made known by revelation 

Moral theology thus understood evidently contains the principles necessary for leading 
souls to the highest sanctity. Ascetical and mystical theology is nothing but the 
application of this broad moral theology to the direction of souls towand ever closer union 
with God. It presupposes what sacred doctrine teaches about the nature and properties of 
the Christian virtues and of the gifts of the Holý Spirit, and it studies the laws and 
conditions of their progress from the point of view of perfection. 

To teach the practice of the highest virtues and perfect docility to the Holý Spirit and to 
lead to the life of union with God, ascetical and mystical theology assembles all the lights 
of dogmatic and moral theology, of which it is the most elevated application and the 

The foregoing statement demonstrates clearly that the study of the spirituál life is truly a branch 
of theology, but a guestion remains: how can spirituál theology as a science treat of the spirituál 
life as lived on the existential level pf the individual person? It would seem that personál 
experience lies outside the domain of spirituál theology as a science; it belongs to the area of 
prudence and is therefore the concem of spirituál directors rather than theologians. However, the 
answer to the guestion depends on the pláce we give to subjective experience in spirituál 
theology, and since experience pertains to the psychological order, it is ultimately a guestion of 
the role of psychological data in ascetical and mystical theology. 

It is trne that there can be no science of singulare, and therefore subjective experience does not 
fall under the scope of theology as a science. Nevertheless, the psychological data of the spirituál 
life do háve a scientific value if they manifest a certain universality in the spirituál life and if this 
is demonstrable by means of a methodical process of induction. Then, when these psychological 
data are synthesized with theological principles, the experience as thus interpreted has 
theological value. For example, St. John of the Cross relates the psychological effects of the dark 
nights to the movement of the Holý Spirit, who more and more directs the soul but does not 
impede psychological reactions. Thus, spirituál theology deals directly with the psychological 
data of the spirituál life, and in so doing it adds to the principles of moral theology the 
experiential or existential element that constitutes spirituál theology as a combination of 
speculative and practical theology. To summarize, spirituál theology comprises three elements: 
(1) the psychological data of spirituál experience; (2) the application of theological principles; 
and (3) practical directives concerning progress in the spirituál life with a view to Christian 

Definition of Spirituál Theology 

In view of the foregoing distinctions, spirituál theology can be described in generál terms as the 
application of moral theology to the spirituál lives of individual Christians with a view to leading 
them to the- perfection of the Christian life. More precisely, spirituál theology is that part of 
theology that, proceeding from the truths ofdivine revelation and the religious experience of 
individual persons, defmes the nature ofthe supernatural life, formulates directives for its 
growth and development, and explains the process by which souls advancefrom the beginning of 
the spirituál life to its full perfection. A brief comment on each phrase of the definition will 
suffice to explain the subject matter and purpose of this branch of theology and to show its 
relationship to other parts of theology. 

In saying that spirituál theology is a part of theology, we admit some degree of distinction 
between spirituál theology and the other branches of sacred doctrine, not as a specifically distinct 
science, but as a field of specialization. Theology itself is one because it has a unigue object, 
námely, the revealed mystery of God as known by human reason through the divine revelation 
accepted in faith. But theology is also sacred wisdom and in that respect it comprises a 
complexity of elements that allow for a plurality of disciplines within the one sacred science, 
subordinating them to the purpose of the one theology and at the samé time respecting their 
autonomy. Thus, as a part of the one theology, spirituál theology has its own identity as a 
specialty both by reason of its method (practical or applied theology as distinct from purely 
speculative theology) and by reason of its subject matter -- Christian perfection and the means to 
attain it. In like manner we admit the emergence of other areas of specialization in dogmatic 
theology and moral theology; for example, Christology, Mariology, sacramental theology, 
pastorál theology, and Christian anthropology, to name a few. 

To say, secondly, that spirituál theology proceeds from the principles of divine revelation is to 
say that it is a science of the truths of faith, an unfolding of the faith. If this were not so, it would 
not be theology at all. Unlike natural theology, which provides a knowledge of God through the 
study of creation, sacred theology is a knowledge of God received initially through the gift of 
supernatural faith. Through faith, we possess God in his mystery; through sacred theology, we 
penetrate the truths of faith by means of the human reasoning process. Hence, God is both the 
object of theology and, through faith, the principle of theology. Faith is therefore the very 

foundation of the knowledge acquired through theological study. 

As sacred wisdom, theology is the supreme science; itutilizes the conclusions of other sciences 
but only after judging them in the light of faith. This does not mean that theology may intervene 
intrinsically and destroy the autonomy of the other sciences, but it does mean that so far as the 
profane sciences touch the area of revealed truths, it is the role of theology to determine their 
conformity or repugnance to the truths of faith. And since the theologian of the spirituál life must 
deal directly with many of the data of the natural sciences, especially psychology, it is 
particularly important to stress the magisterial function of theology in the study of the nature and 
phenomena of religious experience. 

Nevertheless, spirituál theology must make use of experimental data and for that reason the 
definition calls for an investigation of the religious experience of individual persons. Spirituál 
theology, as we háve seen, is not a purely speculative science but also a practical and applied 
theology; it must therefore investigate the experimental data lest it attempt to formulate the laws 
of the spirituál life by an a priori method. However, the experience to which the definition refers 
is not restricted to the external phenomena of religious experience, as can readily be investigated 
by the psychologist. Rather, it is a supernatural experience, an awareness of the workings of 
grace and the Holý Sprit within the soul. This is the primary concern of the theologian of the 
spirituál life; the external manifestations and extraordinary phenomena are of secondary 

We further statě in the definition that spirituál theology defines the nature of the supernatural 
life. Here the theologian must rely almost exclusively on the truths of revelation, the teaching of 
the Church, and the conclusions of systematic theology. In seeking to identify the essential 
elements of the spirituál life, he transcends the variety of religious experiences of individual 
persons and the particular characteristics that distinguish one school of spirituality from another. 
The investigation focuses rather on such questions as the nature of Christian perfection, the life 
of grace, and the operation of the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holý Spirit. 

Spirituál theology also formulates the laws or directives that govern the growth and development 
of the spirituál life. Still dosely related to revealed truths and theological conclusions rather than 
experiential data, the approach is scientific and somewhat speculative rather than experimental 
and descriptive. The reason is that laws for spirituál growth must rise above particular 
differences in order to be applicable to Christians of every class and condition. Only when the 
universal laws háve been stated and explained should the theologian proceed to discuss and 
evaluate the particular forms of spirituality such as lay spirituality, sacerdotal spirituality, 
spirituality of the religious life, or liturgical spirituality. Therefore this section of spirituál 
theology treats of such matters as sin and temptation, active and passive purification, the 
sacraments, good works, and the grades of prayer. 

Lastly, spirituál theology describes the process by which people normally advance from the 
beginning of the spirituál life to full perfection. While it is true that God acts in various ways and 
the Spirit breathes where he will, so that each person follows a path proper to himself, it is 
nevertheless possible for the theologian to chart the various stages through which the individual 
usually passes. For this part of spirituál theology the descriptive and experiental data are 
absolutely indispensable, since it is here that the generál theological principles are tested, so to 
speak, by the facts of experience. It is also here that the prudence of theologians is tested as they 

formulate directives for those who are striving to make progress toward the perfection of the 
Christian life. "Between the knowledge of the principles of action and action itself," says Y ves 
Congar, "there is room for a practical knowledge which is directly regulátory. This knowledge is 
one no longer of a science, but of a virtue at once intellectual and moral: the virtue of 

Theological Method 

Theology as wisdom is at once eminently speculative and eminently practical because the God 
who is the object of the study of theology is the God who intervenes in human history and calls 
us to perfection and salvation. Spirituál theology reflects precisely on the mystery of our 
participation in divine life. It is concerned not only with the construction of a science or theory of 
the supernatural life, but also with the existential condition of that life in the individual Christian. 
Conseguently spirituál theology must express itself in both ontological and psychological terms. 

Because spirituál theology is part of the one theology, it is dosely related to dogmatic and moral 
theology, from which it derives its principles. And because it is an applied theology, it 
necessarily contains much that is practical and experiential. Conseguently, the method of 
theologizing must také both of these factors into account; it must, in fact, combine the deductive 
method and the inductive method and strive to keep a proper balance between the two. 

'The descriptive or inductive method abstracts for the most part ,'áís, from theological principles 
in orderto investigate and describe the ,.„physical and psychological phenomena of religious 
experience. v Studies of this type make a valuable contribution to the theology of '., the spirituál 
life, but to use the empirical method exclusively would cause serious problems. 

First, the descriptive method tends to convert spirituál theology into experimental psychology or 
religious psychology, as GarrigouLagrange observes: "Whoever neglects to háve recourse to the 
light of theological principles will háve to be content with the principles furnished by 
psychology, as do so many psychologists who treat of mystical phenomena in the different 

Second, although a psychological study may be scientific, the psychologist frequently fails to 
seek the causes of the phenomena investigated but is satisfied with a collection of descriptions 
and statistics. 

Third, this method tends to give too much importance to extraordinary phenomena, with the 
result that it fails to distinguish between the normál, concomitant phenomena of mystical 
experience and the extraordinary, charismatic phenomena. Consequently, it at least implies that 
the mystical statě is extraordinary, that Christians are not even remotely called to it, and hence 
that there are two distinct perfections in the Christian life, one ascetical and the other mystical. 

Fourth, any generál rules proceeding exclusively from the empirical data of the descriptive 
method are unscientific and untrustworthy, since they ignore the nature of the supematural life of 
grace and the theological laws of its progress. 

Fifth, the purely descriptive method is unable to distinguish between the supernatural, the 
natural, and the pretematural. It may therefore be tempted to categorize as pathological or 
diabolical any phenomenon that cannot be explained by the rules and theories of normál 


The exclusive use of the deductive method also presents problems. First it tends to overlook the 
fact that spirituál theology is a practical, applied theology and must therefore be correlated with 
the data of experience. Second, there is a temptation to explain phenomena or formulate laws by 
an a priori method that is not substantiated by the facts. Third, spirituál direction based on the 
deductive method may be totally inadeguate for the needs of the individual or may impede the 
soul from following where the Spirit leads. 

It is necessary, therefore, to make use of both methods in order to correlate the theological 
principles with the empirical data of the spirituál life with a view to charting the steps to 
Christian perfection. In this way theologians will be able to discern the unity and variety of the 
spirituál life; they will distinguish the essential from the accidental and the ordinary from the 
extraordinary; they will then postuláte what is absolutely essential for the attainment of Christian 
perfection and what is contingent upon individual personalities or states of life. 

Sources of Spirituál Theology 

The guestion of method leads logically to a discussion of the sources of the theology of the 
spirituál life. Some of these sources are common to theology in generál; others are proper to 
spirituál theology. The primary source of spirituál theology, and of theology in generál, is Sacred 
Scripture and Tradition. Thus, Vatican Council II has stated: "Sacred theology relies on the 
written Word of God, taken together with sacred Tradition, as on a permanent foundation .... 
Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. "(10) 

The Scriptures unguestionably present God as transcendent and immanent, as the beginning and 
the ultimate end of a persohs life, but the primary witness of Scripture is that God has intervened 
in human history to fulfill in humankind the designs of his providence. Therefore, we study the 
divine mysteries revealed by God to know not only what they are in themselves but also what 
they are for us. Revealing to us our high destiny, the Scriptures answer our innate desire to rise 
from a fallen condition in order to experience the divine. The Bible is therefore the rule and 
standard of all authentic spirituality. The fundamental message that comes to us in the gradual 
revelation of the Old Testament is that God loves us and asks our response through faith and 
obedience. Then, in the New Testament, Goďs covenant with Abraham culminates in Christ, 
who is the "last revelation" and the source and model of our life in God. 

Vatican Council II has stated that Scripture, which is "the speech of God as it is put down in 
writing under the breath of the Holý Spirit," and Tradition, which "transmits in its entirety the 
Word of God that has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holý Spirit," are 
dosely bound together and "make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God." (ll) However, 
Tradition is not the purely mechanical transmission of static truth; it is a seed that must develop; 
it is a living tradition that has continuity in history. Thus, Vatican II has asserted: 

The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help 
of the Holý Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being 
passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and 
study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate 
sense of spirituál realities that they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those 

who háve received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure 
charism of truth. Thus, as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing toward the 
plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her. (12) 

Tradition is therefore a source of spirituál theology at the samé level as Scripture because it 
includes Scripture in the sense that the oral transmission of revealed truths preceded the written 
record. Moreover, St. John states at the end of his Gospel: "But there are also many other things 
which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not 
contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25). 

We also speak of Tradition as the transmission of the deposit of faith from one generation to 
another under the magisterial guidance of the Church, which proclaims, explains, and applies the 
revealed truths throughout the centuries. Unlike purely human tradition, which is subject to error, 
the living tradition of the Church is infallible as regards the essential content of the deposit of 
faith, as has been affirmed by Vatican Council II: 

The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written 
form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the 
Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. Y et this 
Magisterium is not superior to the Word of G od, but is its servant. It teaches only what 
has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holý Spirit, it 
listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully. All that it 
proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith. 

It is clear, therefore, that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, 
sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that 
one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way 
under the action of the one Holý Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of 
souls. (13) 

It is evident, therefore, that the Magisterium ofthe Church is likewise a primary theological 
source for the study of the spirituál life and Christian perfection. 

The relation of the liturgy to spirituál theology stems from the fact that "it is through the liturgy, 
especially, that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the 
mystery of Christ and the reál nature of the true Church." (14) It is a vital manifestation of what 
life in Christ should be, for in the liturgy we háve not only an expression of belief but also an 
experience of life in God. Conseguently, the Fathers of Vatican Council II stated that the liturgy 
is "the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian 
spirit." (15) 

As a source of spirituál theology, the liturgy is dosely related to Scripture, Tradition, and the 
Magisterium of the Church. Vatican Council II stressed the importance of Scripture in the 

Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is 
from it that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung. It is from 
the Scriptures that the prayers, collects, and hymns draw their inspiration and their force, 
and that actions and signs derive their meaning .... Although the sacred liturgy is 

principally the worship of the divine majesty, it likewise contains much instmction for 
ťhe faithful. For in the liturgy God speaks to his people, and Christ is still proclaiming his 

The link between Tradition and the liturgy is manifested in such statements as: Lex orandi est lex 
credendi -- The law of prayer is the law of belief. The liturgy is thus an expression of the vital 
continuity and perennial unity of the Churchs proclamation of the revealed truths to all, nations 
throughout the centuries. Finally, as regards the Magisterium, Pope Pius XI referred to the 
liturgy as "the principál organ of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church." 

Spirituál theology also makes use of the principles and conclusions of dogmatic theology and 
moral theology, but before explaining this relationship it would be helpful to comment briefly on 
the function of theology and its relation to the Magisterium. St. Augustine contrasts theology and 
Magisterium when he says: "What we understand we owe to reason; what we believe we owe to 
authority." Yet theology and Magisterium are also interdependent, for the function of theology, 
says Pope Paul VI, is "to bring to the knowledge of the Christian community, and particularly of 
the Magisterium, the fruits of its research so that, through the doctrine taught by the 
ecclesiastical hierarchy, they become a light for all the Christian people." The Church could 
undoubtedly proclaim and preserve the deposit of faith without the aid of the theologians, but 
without theology it could not discover the implications of the revealed truths or make 
applications to tne everchanging needs of the faithful. It is the function of the theologians to 
pláce at the disposition of the Magisterium the theological information that is necessary for the 
exercise of the Churchs teaching authority. Hence, St, Augustine describes theologians as the 
agents by which Christ guards his Church from error and makes it grow in truth. 

On the other hand, the ultimate criterion of orthodox Christian teaching is the Magisterium, as 

Theology has for its rule a datum pro posed by the ecclesiastical Magisterium, just as 
philosophy has for its rule the datum of natural knowledge. And it is well established that 
the first step of the theologian is an act of submission to this datum and the Magisterium. 
But the datum is so rich that it authorizes different manners of approach and, according to 
the intellectual orientation of each one, different manners of posing problems 
themselves. (17) 

In using dogmatic and moral theology as sources, theologians of the spirituál life are not seeking 
primarily to formulate Church teaching as such, nor do they study dogma and morality as purely 
speculative sciences that prescind from religious experience and the spirituál life. Rather, their 
task is to investigate doctrine as lived by individual Christians, in accordance with the supreme 
norm of morality: life in Christ with a view to the perfection of charity. In the tradition of the 
Orthodox Church, Thomas Hopko writes as follows concerning the relationship between spirituál 
theology and speculative theology: 

The first step toward the rediscovery of authentic spirituál life in the Church ... must be 
the integration, or reintegration, of theology and religious experience. Theology must 
become again what it was for the Fathers: the way to union with God open to every 
Christian soul .... And it must deal not only with the possibility of religious experience, 
but also with the manner and the means of achieving it within the life of the Church .... 

What must theology ťhus understood be like? What must be the dogmatic foundation of 
ťhe experience of God? ... The three stages to this approach ... would be the absolutely 
transcendent and Trinitarian character of divine reality, revealed and experienced within 
the liturgical-sacramental life of the Church, and personally and corporately appropriated 
by men through guided ascetic-contemplative activity, also within the total life of the 

Another important source of information for the theology of the spirituál life is the history of 
spirituality. Although the Christian life is essentially the samé for all individuals in all ages, it 
admits of secondary differences and modifications. The reason for this is that grace does not 
change nature but perfects it by working through it, and therefore individual personalities, 
national temperaments, and the needs or charisms of a given age are dominant factors in the 
variety of religious experiences and the classification of schools of spirituality. A knowledge of 
the history of spirituality enables the theologian to recognize the laws or constants that prevail 
throughout the centuries and at the samé time to discern a progressive development and 
evolution in Christian holiness as manifested in the Church. Finally, the history of spirituality 
provides the experiential data so necessary for the practical science of spirituál theology, without 
which the theologian would háve to depend exclusively on the a priori method of deduction 
from the principles of speculative theology and the teaching of the Magisterium. 

Closely related to the history of spirituality are the writings ofsaints and mystics, their 
autobiographies, and their biographies. A part from having descriptive value, such works also 
provide models worthy of imitation. However, the writings should be authentic and critically 
sound, and preference should be given to those works that háve received the positive approbation 
of the Church. As a rule it is also safer to read the instructive and expository writings rather than 
personál letters or ardent exhortations, where exaggeration or misinterpretation may readily 
occur. The value of these works for spirituál theology is that they provide factual testimony of 
the wonderful and mysterious ways in which God is glorified in his saints. 

Finally, spirituál theology makes use of purely experimental sources such as personál experience 
and the various branches of psychology. These sources are of particular importance for 
cultivating the art of spirituál direction and the discernment of spirits. Rational or normál 
psychology provides information concerning the nature of the human soul, the distinction and 
functions of the various faculties and powers, the laws of the emotional life, and the interrelation 
between soul and body. Experimental psychology complements rational psychology by 
providing the data of experience and an analysis of the phenomena of normál and abnormal or 
pathological states. A knowledge of the latter is indispensable for distinguishing between the 
natural, the diabolical, and the supematural and for evaluating the phenomena of the mystical 

It is necessary, however, to avoid two extremes in the use of psychological materiál: first, a 
"psychologism" that would reduce all religious phenomena to a statě of consciousness and thus 
děny the possible intervention of the supematural; second, a "syncretism" that would classify all 
religious experience as identical, thereby obliterating the distinction between Christian 
spirituality and the religious experiences of non-Christians. Psychology provides much important 
data for the study of the spirituál life, but it cannot make the ultimate judgment; that is the 
function of theology, which proceeds from the truths of faith and acknowledges authentic 
religious experience as a supematural reality. 

In listing personál experience as a source for spirituál theology, we refer first of all to one's own 
religious experience, but we also include one's experience in the direction of others and the 
vicarious experience that comes from a study of the testimony of saints and mystics. Nothing can 
replace personál experience in providing an understanding of the mysterious workings of the 
spirituál life. Thus, Congar asserts: "Charity, taste, and a certain personál experience of the 
things of G od are necessary in order that the theologian may treat the mysteries and speak of 
them in a befitting manner." (19) And St. Teresa of Avila stated: "Many are mistaken if they 
think they can learn to discern spirits without being spirituál themselves." (20) 

Schools of Spirituality 

Because the Holý Spirit moves in a variety of ways to lead individuals to perfection, with the 
result that saint differs from saint in glory, there are styles of Christian spirituality sufficiently 
diverse to be classified as schools of spirituality. Some theologians reject the concept of schools 
of spirituality, preferring to emphasize the essential elements that safeguard the unity of the 
Christian life, but the multiple forms of spirituality in the Christian tradition follow logicaHy 
from the definition of the spirituál life as participation in the mystery of Christ. 

First, the cause of the diversity, as St. Thomas Aguinas states, is that God "dispenses his gifts of 
grace variously so that the beauty and perfection of the Church may result from these various 
degrees." (21) St. Paul teaches the samé doctrine: "Just as each of us has one body with many 
members, and not all the members háve the samé function, so too we, though many, are one 
body in Christ, and individually members of one another. We háve gifts that differ according to 
the favor bestowed on each of us" (Rom. 12:4-6). 

Second, St. Paul repeatedly admonishes the Christian to strive to became transformed into Christ 
as completely as possible. But the mystery of Christ is so complex and perfect that it can nevěr 
be duplicated by an individual Christian or by a school of spirituality. It is a treasure that we 
share but nevěr exhaust. The greatest of the saints exemplified in their lives one or another aspect 
of Christ, but nevěr "the whole Christ." The total Christ is best manifested, as St. Paul teaches, in 
the Church as the holý people of God and the Mystical Body of Christ. 

Third, schools of spirituality emerge as a response to the needs of the Church at a given time. 
The history of spirituality demonstrates that from the earliest days of the Church to the present, 
the Christian lifestyles and practices that later became stabilized as schools of spirituality were 
always introduced to help live the mystery of Christ more intimately and thus grow in holiness. 
Moreover, if we see the Church, not as an institution or static structure, but as a vital organism 
constantly evolving toward "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13), the 
various schools of spirituality can be appreciated as contributing to the progressive building-up 
of the Mystical Body of Christ. 

Finally, schools of spirituality are justified by reason of the fact that grace does not destroy but 
works through and perfects nature. The supematural life of grace respects the human personality 
and condition, and therefore the differences in Christian lifestyles are rooted ,in the individuality 
of the human person and the particular characteristics of groups and nations. Thus, the 
temperament of individuals, the moral predispositions to virtue orvice, the type of character 
cultivated -- all these factors exert a great influence on one's response to grace and the use one 
makes of it. These factors will also determine to a great extent one's aptitude or need for 

particular ascetical practices, devotions, and styles of prayer. They will likewise affectthe choice 
of one's vocation or statě in life, and that, in turn, introduces another set of factors that define 
one's spirituality in view of vocational commitments and duties of statě. 

When, therefore, saintly Christians follow Christ in a way that appeals to other persons, or when 
they formulate a spirituál doctrine that can lead souls to greater perfection, they frequently attract 
followers who adopt the samé pattern of Christian living. In time the lifestyle or the doctrine is 
expressed in a corporate manner by the followers, and this sociál manifestation emerges as a 
distinct school of spirituality, e.g., Benedictine spirituality, Franciscan spirituality, Teresian 
spirituality, or Salesian spirituality. Y et schools of spirituality are not restricted exclusively to 
individual persons as founders or leaders; they may also be classified according to national 
temperaments and cultures (French spirituality as distinct from Spanish spirituality), a particular 
period in history (post-Reformation spirituality and Vatican II spirituality), or the doctrinal basis 
and content (Eucharistie spirituality and Marian spirituality). 

The schools of spirituality are thus an indication of the diversity of the ways of the Spirit, a proof 
of the Churchs respect for personál freedom in following the impulses of the Spirit, and a 
corporate witness to the variety of ways in which the mystery of Christ is imaged in the Mystical 
Body of the Church. Therefore one's attitude toward schools of spirituality should be one of 
openness and tolerance, respecting the diversity of needs and charisms and approving whatever 
the Church approves. 


1. Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, nn. 40-41. All quotations from 

the documents of Vatican II are taken from the English version edited by Austin 
Flannery, O.P., under the title Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar 
Documents (Northport, N.Y., Costello Publishing Co., 1975). 

2. Paul Evdokimov, The Struggle with God (Glen Rock, New York: Paulist Press, 1966), p. 


3. Vatican Council II, Declaration on the Relation ofthe Church to Non-Christian Religions, 

n. 2. 

4. Vatican Council II, Pastorál Constitution on the Church in the Modem World, n. 22. 

5. Etienne Gilson, Theologie et histoire de la Spiritualitě (Paris: Vrin, 1948), pp. 12, 17). 

This teaching coincides with that of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange: "Spirituál theology, 
like every science, ought to consider the interior life as such, and not in a given individual 
.... Spirituál theology, while noting the exceptions that may arise from the absence of a 
given condition, ought especially to establish the higher laws of the full development of 
the life of grace as such." The Three Ages ofthe Interior Life, trans. Timothea Doyle, 
Vol. I (St. Louis: B . Herder, 1947), p. x. 

6. Yves Congar, A History of Theology, trans, and ed. H. Guthrie (New York: Doubleday, 

1968), p. 17. 

7. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Christian Perfection and Contemplation, trans. T. Doyle (St. 

Louis: B. Herder, 1945), pp. 12-14. 

8. Congar, op. cit, pp. 263-65. 

9. Garrigou-Lagrange, op. cit, p. 19. 

10. Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, n. 24. 
ll.Jbid., n.9-10. 

12. Ibid., n. 8. 

13. Ibid., n. 10. 

14. Vatican Council II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n. 2. 

15. Ibid., n. 14. 

16. Ibid., nn. 24, 33. 

17. Congar, op. cit, p. 273. 

18. Jordán Aumann, Thomas Hopko, and Donald Bloesch, Christian Spirituality: Eastand 
West (Chicago: Priory Press, 1968), pp. 105-06. 

19. Congar, op. cit, p. 269. 

20. St. Teresa, The Life, trans. E. Allison Peers (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1946) p. 237. 

21. St. Thomas Aguinas, Summa theologiae (Taurini: Marietti, 1948), I-II, g. 112, a. 4. 

The G oal of O ur Striving 

Because spirituál theology treats of the perfection of the Christian life and the means to attain it, 
and is therefore at once both eminently speculative and eminently practical, the first guestion 
proposed for investigation concerns the goal or end of the Christian life. Such is the proceduře in 
any art or applied science, according to the axiom that the end or goal is the first thing in 
intention and the last thing in execution or achievement. 

Whether a person is setting out on a journey, writing a book, or preparing for a career or 
profession, the first thing necessary is to know the goal or end, then to select the proper means to 
that end, and finally to utilize the means for attaining the end. That is why St. Thomas Aguinas 
begins his treatise on moral theology with the guestion of man's ultimate end and beatitude, for it 
is only in view of the ultimate end that one can establish the principles of morality governing 
human acts and then discem which acts will advance one toward the goal. 

The Son of God came into this world that we might háve life and háve it to the full (John 10:10). 

Indeed, "the ultimate purpose of all things is that, in Christ, all persons made by Goďs creative 
love might fneely come to him and share the abundant life of the Blessed Trinity. "(1) 

This mysterious evolution by which Christ himself is formed in us is the principál purpose of 
divine revelation and the basis for all growth and development. To this evolution is ordained the 
divine light of faith, to it the entire gospel, to it the institution 1 of the Church and even the 
incamation of the divine Word. For faith is ordained to charity, which is the bond of perfection; 
and the dogmas of our faith ... are not so much for finding intellectual satisfaction as for 
motivating us to seek the gift of God, the living water of the Holý Ghost, and the power of his 
vivifying grace. The Gospel was written that "believing, you may háve life in his name" (John 
20:31), and the purpose of the Church is the sanctification of souls.(2) 

Conseguently, the justified Christian lives by the samé life that animated Jesus Christ according 
to the statement of St. Augustine: "One becomes a Christian by the samé grace by which Christ 
was made. He is reborn of the samé Spirit of whom Christ was born."{3) The life received from 
Jesus Christ through the Holý Spirit respects our human condition at the samé time that it 
elevates us to the supernatural order and makes us capable of performing actions that are 
likewise supematural. "We receive, together with this life, a copious array of potencies and 
proportionate energies by which we can live, grow, and work as true sons of God, called from 
the kingdom of darkness to the participation of his eternal light. By means of these new powers 
we can discover the road to true life and thus arrive at the enjoyment of Goďs delightful 
presence." (4) 

It is evident, therefore, that the supematural life received through Jesus Christ is, like all life, 
meant to increase and expand through our efforts and cooperation. The spirituál life is not a 
treasure to be buried in a safe pláce; it is a seed that must be watered and cared for until it 
reaches full growth and maturity. But in order that we may understand more perfectly the nature 
of the supematural life, its potencies or powers, and the phases through which it passes to full 
maturity, it is necessary to know what is the goal of our striving. 

The spirituál life has three distinct goals or, if one prefers, it has one ultimate goal and two 
relative or proximate goals. The ultimate goal of the spirituál life, as of all things in creation, is 
the glory of God; the proximate goals are our sanctification and salvation. 


Theologians generally attribute to God a twofold glory: the intrinsic glory of the inner life of the 
Trinity and the extrinsic glory that redounds to God through his external works. By intrinsic 
glory we mean the splendor of the infinite' beauty, goodness, and tmth of the Trinity. God the 
Father, knowing himself perfectly, etemally reproduces a perfect likeness of himself by the 
intellectual generation of the Word, who is the only-begotten Son of the Father. As a result of 
their mutual contemplation, there is etemally exchanged between these two Persons a current of 
divine love, which is the Holý Spirit. The knowledge and love that God has for himself in the 
ineffable mystery of his infinite beauty constitute his intrinsic glory, to which nothing is lacking 
and to which nothing can be added. 

God is infinitely perfect and has no need of anything outside himself. Therefore the reason for 
creation must somehow be found in Goďs goodness and love. God is love, says St. John (4:16), 

and love by its very nature is communicable. God is infinite goodness and, as tne philosophers 
say, goodness tends to diffuse itself. But it is a philosophical principle that every agent acts for 
an end, especially an intellectual agent and therefore God, the first and supreme intellect, must 
likewise act for an end. However, it is impossible that in creating the universe God could háve 
doně so for some end distinct from himself, since that would mean acting for a good outside 
himself, a good he did not yet possess. Moreover, if God had acted for an end other than himself, 
he would háve subordinated himself to that end and that is incompatible with his infinity and 

"I am the Lord, this is my name; my glory I give to no other, normy praise to idols" (Isa. 42:8). 
It follows, therefore, that God created all things for himself; all created things exist in and for 

At first glance this may seem to suggest a consummate egoism in God, as if he had created all 
things for his own selfish pleasure and utility. But it should be noted, as St. Thomas observes, 
that God does not work -for an end as we do, desiring and striving for a good we do not yet 
possess. God is infinite goodness, and therefore he cannot desire any good or end distinct from 
himself; but out of love of the infinite goodness that he is, God wills to communicate the good 
that he already possesses. Not only that, but all things that exist outside of God are to a lesser or 
greater degree a reflection of the goodness and glory that are intrinsic to the Trinity. Hence, St. 
Thomas states: "The entire universe with all its parts is ordained to God as to its ultimate end, in 
the sense that in all its parts it reflects the divine goodness by a certain limitation and for the 
glory ofGod."{5) 

The extrinsic glory of God should be understood first of all as a sharing in the beauty, truth, and 
goodness that constitute Goďs intrinsic glory. Thus the statement of St. Paul: "Since the creation 
of the world, invisible realities, Goďs eternal power and divinity, háve become visible, 
recognized through the things he has made" (Rom. 1 :20) . In other words, whatever there is of 
goodness, truth, and beauty in Goďs creation is there as a reflection of the infinite goodness, 
truth, and beauty of God; and in the čase of creatures endowed with intellect and will, they are 
called to share in the glory of the inner life of the Trinity. By a process that the Fathers of the 
Church did not hesitate to describe as "deification" and "divinization," Goďs own glory shines 
forth resplendently in the souls of the just. 

If we had remained in the purely natural statě and had not been raised to supematural life, 
knowledge, and love, we could nevěr possess formally and physically anything divine; 
not even divine faculties, powers, and energies. Our knowledge and love could nevěr 
attain to God as he is in himself, and we could not embrace him with these two acts, 
which are the arms by which it is given to us now to unitě ourselves with him .... But by a 
prodigy of love that we can nevěr sufficiently admire, much less worthily acknowledge, 
he condescended to supernaturalize us from the beginning by elevating us to nothing less 
than his own status, to make us share in his life, his infinite power, his own operations, 
and his eternal happiness.(6) 

So the entire created universe exists in orderto manifest the goodness, truth, and beauty of God; 
that is extrinsic glory seen from the viewpoint of the Creator. From the creature's side, however, 
the glory of God is seen as a striving for greater perfection whereby God is praised and glorified. 
In fact, in spirituál writing the phrase "glory of God" usually signifies the adoration and praise 

ťhat are stimulated by the recognition of Goďs perfections as reflected in the beauties of the 
universe or the good deeds of individual persons. God is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13), 
the beginning and the end ; and therefore Goďs extrinsic glory is at once something received 
from God and something returned to God. And while every creature of whatever kind manifests 
some perfection of God, the rational creature manifests much more: the capacity to share in the 
very nátuře and life of God himself and the ability to give back to God, through praise and loving 
service, all that has been received. 

Everything in creation, and especially the human person, is ordained to the samé ultimate end: 
the glory of God. Hence, St. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth: "So, whether you eat or 
drink, or whateveryou do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). As Christian souls make 
progress along the road to perfection, they come to an ever clearer realization that their personál 
sanctification and even their perfect happiness in heaven are not the ultimate goal of the spirituál 
life; rather, one's sanctification and salvation are the most excellent and efficacious means of 
giving glory to the Trinity. Thus, when drawing his map of the journey to the mount of 
perfection, St. John of the Cross printed these words on the summit: "Here on this mount, dwell 
only the honor and glory of God." 

Salvation --The Life of Glory 

"But trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home." The words of the poet 
Wordsworth serve as a succinct description of the intimate relationship, between the ultimate end 
of the Christian life -the glory of God -and the proximate or secondary ends: salvation and 
sanctification. Since the secondary ends are more immediate, Christians are usually much more 
aware of them, especially the salvation of one's soul. As a result, the secondary ends normally 
háve a greater influence on one's daily life and actions than does the concept of the glory of God. 
In fact, the glory of God does not seem to be a dominating motive in the lives of Christians until 
they háve advanced rather far on the road to perfection. This, however, is readily understood 
when we realize how difficult it is to achieve total abandonment to Goďs will, which comes only 
at the cost of a profound and painful purgation of self-love. 

As we use the term here, salvation is synonymous with the expressions "man's ultimate 
happiness," "eternal life," and "life in glory." We háve stated that as a proximate goal of the 
spirituál life, salvation is intimately related to the ultimate goal: the glory of God. It could not be 
otherwise because man's ultimate and perfect happiness in heaven will be the result of the full 
flowering of the life of grace received through J ešus Christ by the power of the Holý Spirit. And 
that life, both in time and in eternity, is at once a sharing in the life of the Trinity (Goďs intrinsic 
glory) and the source of man's justification and supernatural perfection (Goďs extrinsic glory). 

Beatitude or perfect happiness, says St. Thomas, constitutes Man's ultimate perfection.{7) It 
cannot be realized in this life, which is a time of pilgrimage and vigil, because St. John writes: 
" What we shall later be has not yet come to light. We know that when it comes to light we shall 
be like him, for we shall see him as he is .... Our love is brought to perfection in this, that we 
should háve confidence on the day of judgment" (1 John 3:2; 4:17). Man's ultimate happiness 
and definitivě perfection will be attained only in the life after death, in glory, where the blessed 
enjoy forever the beauty of the triune God. 

St. Paul experienced such a profound yearning for heaven that he wrote to the Philippians: "I 

long to be freed from ťhis life and to be with Christ, for that is tne far better thing; yet it is more 
urgent that I remain alive for your sakes" (Phil. 1:23). Many of the saints and mystics throughout 
the centuries háve echoed the samé sentiment as we see in the statements made by St. Teresa of 
Avila: "I want to see God, and to see him we must die," and St. Augustine: "Our hearts are 
restless until they rest in thee." 

St. Thomas Aguinas teaches that man's finál beatitude in glory depends on two conditions: the 
total perfection of the individual and a knowledge of the good possessed in glory .(8) The first 
condition is verified as soon as the just soul reaches heaven, for nothing imperfect or stained can 
enter into glory. Moreover, it has been divinized to the full extent of its capacity because the 
supematural life received through Christ comes to its full development in glory. "Those he called 
he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory" (Rom. 8:30). Therefore all the souls 
of the blessed are perfect, and every soul in glory is a saint, whether canonized or not, since each 
soul in heaven enjoys the most intimate union with God that is possible to it. 

Does this mean that only those souls can enter glory that háve reached a high degree of grace and 
spirituál perfection? To answer this guestion it is necessary to make a distinction between 
salvation as being saved, and salvation as the statě of glory or the actual enjoyment of perfect 
happiness in heaven. Salvation is achieved by all those who die in the statě of grace, even in a 
minimal degree,{9) but this does not mean that all the souls of the just enter immediately into the 
beatitude of glory. It is explicitly defined by the Church that those who die in the statě of grace 
and are in no need of further purification will enter glory immediately after death, but those who 
still need to be purified will enter heaven only when their purification is completed. (lO) 

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange explains the matter as fullows: 

The dogma of purgatory, then, throws a new light on the present guestion. Purgatory is a 
punishment that supposes a sin that could háve been avoided and an insufficient 
satisfaction that could háve been complete if we had better accepted the trials of the 
present life. It is certain that no one will be detained in purgatory except for sins that 
could háve been avoided or for negligence in making reparation for them. Therefore 
normally we should, like the saints, undergo our purgatory in this life while meriting, 
while growing in love, instead of after death without meriting. 

Therefore sanctifying grace, which is of itself ordained to etemal life, is also ordained to 
such perfection that the soul may receive the light of glory immediately after death 
without passing through purgatory. This disposition to enter heaven immediately after 
death supposes a complete purification, analogous at least to that of souls that are about 
to leave purgatory and háve a very ardent desire for God. According to St. John of the 
Cross, this complete purification is normally found on earth only in those who háve 
courageously endured the passive purifications of the senses and the spirit, which. 
prepare the soul for intimate union with God (The Da rk Night, Book II, Chap. 20). (11) 

The second condition postulated by St. Thomas for man's perfect happiness in glory is a 
knowledge of the good possessed. Now St. John states that in the life to come we shall see God 
as he is (1 John 3:2), and St. Paul says: "Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we shall 
see face to face. My knowledge is imperfect now; then I shall know even as I am known" (1 Cor. 
13:12). Because of this teaching, theologians use the phrase "beatific vision" to describe the 

intimate and joyful union of tne souls of tne blessed with God in glory. "The activity of eternal 
life ; " says Arintero, "consists in knowing and loving God the Father and Jesus Christ whom he 
sent; that is, in comtemplating clearly the most august and most profound secrets of the divinity 
and the ineffable mysteries of our redemption and deifigation. Such is the everlasting activity of 
the blessed who enjoy the infinite treasures of the patemal heritage, contemplate the bottomless 
abyss of uncreated Beauty, and love the absolute Goodness." (12) 

Two official ecclesiastical statements concerning the beatific vision are of speciál importance in 
the theology of man's life in glory. The first is a declaration by Pope Benedict XII: "The souls of 
the just see the divine essence by an intuitive, face-to-face vision, with no creature as a medium 
of vision, but with the divine essence immediately manifesting itself to them, clearly and 
openly." (13) The second statement is found in a decree issued by the Council of Florence: "Souls 
immediately upon entrance into heaven see clearly the one and triune God as he is ; one more 
perfectly than another, depending on their merits." (14) 

The necessity of postulating a "face-to-face vision, with no creature as a medium of vision" 
follows from the assertion by St. Thomas: "To say that God is seen through some likeness is to 
say that God is not seen at all." (15) And since the human intellect cannot know anything without 
an intellectual species or idea, it must be said that the divine essence itself is the intelligible 

However, for the human intellect in glory to receive the divine essence as an intelligible species, 
its capacity must be vastly extended. Otherwise, according to the axiom that whatever is received 
is received according to the capacity or mode of the recipient, the knowledge of God in 
glory would not be substantially different from that of the soul as a wayfarer. As a result, the 
divine essence would be brought down to the capacity of the human intellect. St. Thomas, 
therefore, argues to the necessity of an elevation of the human intellect by some kind of 
supematural gift: 

Nothing can receive a higher form unless it be disposed thereto by raising and enlarging 
its capacity, because every act is limited to its proper power. Now the divine essence is a 
higher form than any created intellect. Therefore, in order that the divine essence become 
the intelligible species for a created intellect, which is reguired in order that the divine 
substance be seen, the created intellect must be raised and enlatged for that purpose by 
some supematural disposition. (16) 

When any created intellect sees the essence of God, the essence of God itself becomes the 
intelligible form of the intellect. Hence it is necessary ... that the power of understanding 
should be aided by divine grace. Now this increase of the intellectual powers is called the 
illumination of the intellect .... And this is the light spoken of in Revelation 21:23: "It (the 
society of the blessed who see God) was lit by the radiant glory of God."(17) 

The illumination of the intellect described by St. Thomas is known in theology as the light of 
glory (lumen gloriae), and while the Church has nevěr defined its precise náturo, the Council of 
Vienne (1311-12) did condemn the opinion that denies the necessity of a speciál illumination of 
the intellect in glory .(18) Some theologians, however, háve attempted to probe more deeply into 
the nature and function of the light of glory. Thus, St. Thomas states that the beatific vision 
replaces the faith of the wayfarer and is a perfection of the gift of understanding. (19) The 

function of this gift on earth is to apprehend spirituál things, but in heaven it attains to the divine 
essence through facial vision. He explains his teaching as follows: 

The vision of God is twofold. One is perfect, whereby Goďs essence is seen; the other is 
imperfect, whereby, though we see not what God is, yet we see what he is not .... Each of 
these visions of God belongs to the gift of understanding: the first to the gift of 
understanding in its statě of perfection, as possessed in heaven; the second to the gift of 
understanding in its incipient statě, as possessed by wayfarers. (20) 

Other theologians háve discussed the beatific vision in terms of the divine essence as the 
intelligible species of the intellect of the blessed, perhaps taking their cue from the samé passage 
from Revelationjust cited: "The city had no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God gave it 
light, and its lamp was the Lamb" (Řev. 21:23). So St. Augustine writes: "Tnou art that light in 
which we must see the light; that is, we must see thee in thyself with the splendor of thy 
countenance." (21) 

The Fathers of the Church nevěr spoke of the beatific vision in terms of any created light; rather, 
the intelligible species in which the blessed see the divine essence is the Word, and the interior 
power by which they see the divine essence is the power of the Holý Spirit. Arintero follows this 
line of thought: 

What, objectively, is this divine idea, this faithful expression of the divine essence, but 
the yery Word of God? What is the Word but the most perfect and adeguate image, the 
etemal idea, the living word, the very face of God and his substantial manifestation? He 
is the etemal splendor of the Father and the figuře of his substance; light of light, light of 
glory on whom the angels love to gáze, the sole luminary in the city of God where none 
other is needed. 

Hence the Word, to whose image souls are configured and who is immediately united to 
their intellects, is the eternal light that objectively enlightens them, the true lumen gloriae 
in whom they see the face of God. He is the absolute and adeguate idea in whom they see 
the divine essence faithfully and without any intermediary. But that we may see the 
divine essence and receive such an idea, it is necessary, we repeat, that our intellects be 
strengthened subjectively and their capacity enlarged .... This cannot be effected through 
any created power that would be of the samé condition or incapacity as the soul itself . It 
can be doně only through divine power; that is, through the loving Spirit who strengthens 
us from within and fortifies our weakness. (22) 

What has been said about man's etemal beatitude in glory as a proximate end of the spirituál life 
should suffice to give a basic understanding of that beatitude as the perfect fulfillment of the life 
of the spirit. But it was not Goďs will simply to bestow on us the gift of grace and then bring it to 
its full flowering without our cooperation. Rather, he has commanded all men to love and serve 
him in this life in order to attain the ultimate happiness of heaven. 

For God did not make men simply for heaven, but for coming to heaven through 
generous and good acts that his grace enables us to perform here and now. Goďs gift was 
not to be only the blessed life of heaven, but the further gift of letting men gain 
blessedness as a merited reward .... We live now a pilgrim life, among sacraments and 

symbols. But one who believes and hopes and loves possesses-already tne living seeds of 
that life which is beyond signs. It is our joy to háve received the life God gives now, and 
freely to serve him now, making his kingdom present even now on earth among men. (23) 


After the glory of God and the beatific vision in heaven, the spirituál life has for its end or goal 
the sanctification of one's own soul. This means that all Christians should strive for the 
perfection of their spirituál life, in accordance with the teaching of Scripture: "Y ou, therefore, 
must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48); "To all ..., who are called to be 
saints" (Rom. 1:7); "It is Goďs will thatyou grow in holiness" (1 Thess. 4:3). 

The perfection of the spirituál life likewise follows from the very nature of life itself, since every 
living thing naturally seeks and tends to its perfection. Thus, St. Paul admonished the Ephesians 
to strive to "form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature" (Eph. 4:13). More recently, 
Vatican Council ú reminded contemporary Christians of their lofty vocation to holiness in the 
following words: 

The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of 
which he is the author and maker) to each and every one of his disciples without 
distinction, "Y ou must be made perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). 
For he sent the Holý Spirit to all to move them interiorly to love G od with their whole 
heart, their whole soul, with their whole understanding, and with their whole strength (cf. 
Mark 12:30), and to love one another as Christ loved them (cf.John 13:34; 15:12). The 
followers of Christ, called by God not in virtue of their works but by his design and 
grace, and justified in the Lord Jesus, háve been made sons of God in the baptism of faith 
and partakers of the divine nature, and so are truly sanctified. They must therefore hold 
on to and perfect in their lives that sanctification which they háve received from God .... 

It is therefore guite clear that all Christians in any statě or walk of life are called to the 
fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human 
manner of life is fostered also in earthly society. In order to reach this perfection the 
faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Chrisťs gift, so that, following in his 
footsteps and conformed to his image, doing the will of God in everything, they may 
wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their 
neighbor. Thus the holiness of the people of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is 
cleariy shown in the history of the Chunch through the lives of so many saints. (24) 

When we speak of perfection or sanctification as a goal of the spirituál life, we must distinguish 
a twofold statě or level of that life: life in glory and life on earth, life before death and life after 
death. The measure of the perfection or holiness of the spirituál life is the degree of participation 
by the individual Christian in the sanctity and perfection of God. 

But sanctifying grace is a sharing in the nature and life of God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23) and by its very 
nature tends to increase to perfection. Therefore, the degree of union with God and of perfection 
in the spirituál life will depend on the extent to which the soul is permeated with grace. 

Perfect union, however, will be realized only in glory, only in life after death, according to tne 
dictum of St. Thomas that man's ultimate beatitude or life in glory in his supreme perfection. (25) 
Conseguently, in the strictest sense of the word, the Christian will attain his full and complete 
perfection only in glory, where, through the beatific vision, he possesses for all etemity the 
beauty, goodness, and truth of-the triune God. Faith then yields to vision, hope to possession, and 
charity is forever satisfied but nevěr satiated. 

To speak of perfection here on earth, in man as a wayfarer, is to use the term in a relative sense, 
because grace and charity háve no terminus or limit so long as we are capable of cooperating 
wiťh grace Y and thus meriting an increase. St. Augustine states: "O God, you give us the grace 
to love you, and when we love you, you give us the grace to love you more." Only death puts a 
definitivě limit to our growth in grace and charity, and therefore our growth in perfection. 

Nevertheless, we may truly use the word perfection to describe the statě of the just souls on 
earth, since even the minimal degree of sanctifying grace constitutes a basic perfection. St. 
Thomas calls grace "the beginning of glory," and St. Irenaeus designates it as "the seed of the 
Father." Therefore when we speak of perfection or sanctification as a proximate goal of the 
spirituál life, we are referring not to any specific degree of perfection at a given moment, but to 
the ideál placed before all Christians by Christ himself: "Y ou shall love the Lord your God with 
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 
12:30). This is the goal of our spirituál life as wayfarers: the perfection of the supernatural life 
received through Christ by the power of the Holý Spirit. It is likewise the field of our study in 
spirituál theology. 


1. Ronald Lawler, et al., The Teaching of Christ (Huntington, Ind.; Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 

1975), p. 265. 

2. John G. Arintero, TheMystical Evolution in the D evelopment and Vitality ofthe Church, 

trans. Jordán Aumann (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1949), Vol. I, p. 2. This work has been 
reprinted by TAN B ooks of Rockford, 111. 

3. St. Augustine, De praedestinatione, 31. 

4. Arintero, op. cit, Vol. I, p. 47. 

5. See St. Thomas Aguinas, Summa theologiae, I, g. 44, a. 4; g. 65, a. 2. 

6. Arintero, op. cit, Vol. I, p. 61. 

7. See Summa theologiae, I-II, g. 3, a. 2 and ad 4. 
S.Ibid., I, g. 26, a. 1. 

9. Ibid., I-II, g. 109, a. 5; g. 111, a. 5; g. 114, aa. 2-3. 

10. See H. Denzinger and A. Schónmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum (Freiburg: Herder, 

1963), 857; 925; 990; 1000; 1067; 1305. Hereafter this reference will be given as 
Denz.-Schón., togeťher with the number of the pertinent passage. 

11. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, the ThreeAges ofthe Interior Life, trans. Timothea Doyle 
(St. Louis: B. Herder, 1948), p. 649. 

12. Arintero, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 121. 

13. Denz.-Schón. 1000-02. 

14. Ibid., 1304-06. 

15. Summa theologiae, I, g. 12, a. 2. 

16. St. Thomas Aguinas, Summa contra Gentiles, Book III, Chap. 53. 

17. Summa theologiae, I, g. 12, a. 5. 

18. Denz.-Schón. 895. 

19. St. Thomas Aguinas, III Sent, dist. 23, g. 1, a. 3, ad 6. 

20. Summa theologiae, II-II, g. 8, a. 7. 

21. St. Augustine, Soliloquies, Chap. 36. 

22. Arintero, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 126-27. 

23. R. Lawler, etal, op. cit, pp. 33-34. 

24. Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 40. 

25. Summa theologiae, I-II, g. 3, a. 2 and ad 4. 


Our Life in Christ and Mary 

Two passages from Sacred Scripture serve as an excellent introduction to our discussion of 
Chrisťs role in our sanctification. 

God is one. One also is the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who 
gavehimself as aransom forall (1 Tim. 2:5-6). 

God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son, possesses 
life; whoever does notpossess the Son of God does notpossess life (1 John 5:11-12). 

Since the Second Vatican Council there has been a renewed emphasis on the role of Christ in our 
sanctification. It is true, of course, that the spirituál life of the people of God has always been 
Christ- centered because Christ has always been and must always be the exemplár and efficient 
cause of Christian holiness. But from time to time in the history of spirituality, Christ has been 

eclipsed by other devotions, or at times one or another aspect of ťhe sacred humanity of Christ 
has been exaggerated at the expense of his divinity . Nevertheless, in every age there háve been 
competent theologians and spirituál writers who taught and promoted a truly Christocentric 

Since God has predestined those whom he called to share the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29), 
union with Christ is a centrál dogma in Christian revelation. Thus, St. Thomas states that "what 
is primary in the New Law is the grace of the Holý Spirit, shown in faith working through love. 
Now we obtain this grace through the Son of God-made man; grace first filled his humanity, and 
thence was brought to us." It follows, therefore, that "grace was conferred on Christ as the 
universal principle of all those who háve grace. "(1) 

Scriptural Testimony 

St. John speaks of our union with Christ within the framework of four basic concepts. Christ is 
the Word oflife; therefore we must live in him and let him work through us by his spirit. Christ 
is the vine, and we are the branches; therefore we must remain united with him in order to 
produce the fruits of etemal life. Christ alone has the words of truth; therefore in the measure that 
we accept his teaching we shall walk in the truth and impart his truth to others. Christ is our way 
to the Trinity and can lead us to the beatific joy of union with the three divine Persons, as he 
stated at the Last Supper (John 17:20-24). 

St. Paul was a man literally seized by Christ and so completely did he give himself to Christ that 
everything in his life and teaching converges on Christ crucified and risen from the dead. One of 
the most succinct descriptions of Chrisťs centrál position in the pian of salvation and in man's 
sanctification is found in St. Paul's prayer of thanksgiving in his letter to the Ephesians: 

Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has bestowed on us in Christ 
every spirituál blessing in the heavens! God chose us in him before the worid began, to 
be holý and blameless in his sight, to be full of love; he likewise predestined us through 
Christ Jesus to be his adopted sons -- such was his will and pleasure -- that all might 
praise the glorious favor he has bestowed on us in his beloved. 

It is in Christ and through his blood that we háve been redeemed and our sins forgiven, so 
immeasurably generous is Goďs favor to us. God has given us the wisdom to understand 
fully the my stery, the pian he was pleased to decree in Christ, to be carried out in the 
fullness of time; námely, to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under 
Chrisťs headship (Eph. 1:3-15).(2) 

It is therefore Goďs will that we unitě ourselves ever more intimately with Christ "till we 
become one in faith and in the knowledge of Goďs Son, and form that perfect man who is Christ 
come to full stature .... Let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the 
head" (Eph. 4:13,15). 

Speculative theologians háve discussed the nature of the union of the just soul with Christ, but 
the results háve not been uniformly satisfying. Pope Pius XII reminded theologians that the 
union between Christ and the soul surpasses all description and that any exaggeration, even if it 
be merely a matter of terminology, can háve serious conseguences in the field of spirituality. He 
concluded by saying that this union surpasses any moral or physical union just as grace 

transcends nátuře, and it is best described as a mystical union.(3) 

Another point to be noted is that if the goal of the Christian life is configuration with Christ and 
transformation in Christ as St. Paul explicitly teaches, there can nevěr be a point at which the 
soul abandons Christ. St. Teresa found it necessary to combat this error in her day, and she did so 
with her customary vehemence: 

Y ou will also think that anyone who enjoys such sublime favors will not engage in 
meditation on the most sacred humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ because by that time he 
will be wholly proficient in love. This is a thing of which I háve written at length 
elsewhere, and although I háve. been contradicted about it and told that I do not 
understand it, because these are paths along which our Lord leads us, and that when we 
háve got over the first stages, we shall do better to occupy ourselves with matters 
conceming the Godhead and to flee from corporeal things, they will certainly not make 
me admit that this is a good way .... And observe that I am going so far as to advise you 
not to believe anyone who tells you otherwise .... The last thing we should do is to 
withdraw of set purpose from our greatest help and blessing, which is the most sacred 
humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ .... 

It is true that anyone whom our Lord brings to the seventh mansion very rarely, or nevěr, 
needs to engage in this activity, for the reason I shall set down, if I remember to do so, 
when I come to deal with that mansion, where in a wonderful way the soul nevěr ceases 
to walk with Christ our Lord but, is ever in the company of both his divine and his human 

Lastly, there is the problém of relating with the saving actions of Christ, all of which are now 
past history. Christ has ascended to glory and still intercedes for us at the right hand of the 
Father, but to retům to the historical Christ would seem to make Christianity a religion of 
memoriál services and Christian spirituality a nostalgia for the past. The answer to this problém 
was provided by Cardinal Bérulle of the seventeenth-century French school, who stated that 
although the actions of Christ and the events of his life took pláce only once and are now 
historical facts, they retain their salvific efficacy for all etemity. Everything that Jesus did in time 
redounds to the divine Person of the Word forever. The glorified Christ is still redeeming and 
sanctifying us through the infinite merits of his life and passion and death. 

We can now discuss in greater detail the precise role of Christ in the spirituál life of the people of 
God, and to do so we shall proceed from the description that Christ gave of himself: "I am the 
way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). 

Christ the Way 

To say that Jesus Christ is the way means that no one can go to the Father except through him, 
for there has been given to us no other name under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 
4:12). According to the divine pian, the sanctity to which God calls us through grace and 
adoption consists in a participation in the divine life that was brought to mankind by Christ. This 
is expressly stated by St. Paul: 

He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holý and 
blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, 

according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he fneely 
bestowed on us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:4-6). 

Christ reestablished the divine pian of our salvation, which had been destroyed by the sin of 
Adam. "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the 
world, so that we might live through him" (1 John 4:9). 

Therefore the primary concern of every Christian should be to live the life that Christ brought to 
us, to be united with Christ to the point of being configured with him. To express this profound 
truth of the union of the Christian with Christ St. Paul had to invent terms that had nevěr before 
been ušed: "For if we háve died with him {conmortui) (2Tim. 2:11), we were buried with him 
(consepulti) (Rom. 6:4), butGod ... raised us up togeťher {conresuscitati) (Eph. 2:6), brought us 
to life togetherwith Christ (convivificavit nos)" (ibid. 2:5), so that "we shall also live with him 
(et convivemus)" (2 Tim. 2:11) and sittogetherinheaven with Christ Jesus (eř consedere) (Eph. 
2:6). In view of this Paulině doctrine, the statements of Dom Columba summarize: 

We must understand that we can only be saints according to the measure in which the life 
of Jesus Christ is in us: that is the only holiness God asks of us; there is no other. We can 
only be holý in Jesus Christ; otherwise we cannot be so at all. There is not an atom of this 
holiness in creation; it proceeds from God by a supremely free act of his almighty will .... 
St. Paul returns more than once to the gratuitousness of the divine gift of adoption, and 
also to the eternity of the ineffable love which determined him to make us partakers of it, 
and to the wonderful means of realizing it through the grace of Jesus Christ.(5) 

Christ is therefore the only way of going to the Father. He is also the personification of the only 
trne sanctity according to the divine pian. Through him alone can we attain the ideál intended by 
God in the creation, redemption, and sanctification of the human race: the praise of his glory 
(Eph. 1:5-6). The Church reminds us of this each time the Mass is celebrated: "Through him, 
with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holý Spirit, all glory and honor are yours, almighty 
Father, forever and ever." Many of the saints, enlightened by God to understand more fully the 
mystery of Christ, yearned to be dissolved and. to be absorbed in Christ. The desire expressed by 
St. Paul readily comes to mind (Phil. 1:23-34), but a modem mystic, Sister Elizabeth of the 
Trinity, seems to háve penetrated the mystery of Christ as profoundly as did the Apostle to the 
Gentiles. Addressing Christ, she writes: 

I realize my weakness and beseech thee to clothe me with thyself, to identify my soul 
with all the movements of thine own. Immerse me in thyself, possess me wholly; 
substitute thyself for me, that my life may be but a radiance of thine own. Enter my soul 
as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior! O Etemal Word, Utterance of my God! I long to pass 
my life in listening to thee, to become docile that I may leam all from thee .... 

O consuming Fire! Spirit of love! Descend within me and reproduce in me, as it were, an 
incarnation of the Word; that I may be to him another humanity wherein he renews his 
mystery. And thou, O Father, bend down toward thy poor little creature and overshadow 
her, beholding in her none other than thy beloved Son in whom thou hast set all thy 

Our incorporation in Christ is therefore the basis of our sanctification and the very substance of 

our spirituál life. From this fundamental dogma of incorporation in Christ follow all the 
conclusions that pertain to Christian spirituality. Souls earnestly striving for perfection would do 
well to dedicate themselves to a deeper appreciation of the mystery of Christ and then endeavor 
to reproduce this mystery in their own lives. If they do this, they will surely reach the summit of 
sanctity and will be able to repeat with St. Paul: "The life I live now is not my own; Christ is 
living in me" (Gal. 2:20). 

Christ the Truth 

Christ is the Incarnation of the uncreated wisdom of the Word, and through his sacred humanity 
he communicates to us all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. As the Word uttered by the 
Father from all etemity, he is eternally generated as Son of God, and it is precisely his divine 
sonship that constitutes him as the model and exemplár of the perfection of the Christian life. 
The reason for this is that we are called to become through grace what Christ is by his very 
nature: children of God. Dom Marmion has written beautifully on this doctrine: 

The divine sonship of Christ is the type of our supernatural sonship; his condition, his 
"being" the Son of God is the exemplár of the statě in which we must be established by 
sanctifying grace. Christ is the Son of God by nature and by right in virtue of the union 
of the etemal Word with human nature; we are so by adoption and grace, but we are so 
really and truly. Christ has, moreover, sanctifying grace; he possesses the fullness of it; 
from his fullness it flows into us more or less abundantly but, in its substance, it is the 
samé grace that both fills the created soul of Jesus and deifies us. St. Thomas says that 
our divine filiation is a resemblance of the etemal filiation .... 

Such is the primordial and supereminent manner in which Christ is first of all our 
example: in the Incarnation he is constituted, by right, the Son of God; we should become 
so by being partakers of the grace derived from him that, deifying the substance of our 
souls, constitutes us in the statě of children of God. That is the first and essential 
characteristic of the likeness we must háve to Christ Jesus; it is the condition of all our 
supematural activity.(7) 

This should be the basic preoccupation of every Christian: to know Christ and to cultivate the 
attitude of a child of the heavenly Father, who is also our Father, as Jesus told us: "I am 
ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17). "We shall 
understand nothing of perfection and sanctity," says Dom Marmion, "and we shall not even 
know in what simple Christianity consists, as long as we are not convinced that fundamentally it 
consists in being children of God and that this guality or statě is given to us by sanctifying grace, 
through which we share in the eternal filiation of the Incamate Word."{8) This is the most 
important exempláry causality that Christ exercises on us, although he is also an exemplár in his 
works and in his virtues. 

The primary motive of the Incarnation was the redemption of the human race, but there were 
other secondary motives as well, and among them was that of offering us, in Christ, a perfect 
model and exemplár of holiness. In an absolute sense, the prototype of all holiness and sanctity 
is, of course, the Eternal Word, in whom the Father contemplates himself with infinite love. But 
it is this šelf samé Word that came down to earth to assume our human nature, to be like us in all 
things except sin. As the Incamate Word of the Father, Jesus Christ thus becomes for us the 

perfect ideál whom we ought to emulate and to whom we should become configured. 
Consequently, it is through Christ our model and exemplár that we are able to attain a holiness 
that is tmly divine, imaging, however faintly, the sublime sanctity of the Eternal Word. 

Christ is also the tmth in the sense that he is our master and teacher. As he said at the Last 
Suppen "I háve given them the teaching you gave to me, and they háve tmly accepted this, that I 
come from you, and háve believed that it was you who sent me" (John 17:8). All of Chrisťs 
doctrine, from the Sermon on the Mount to the Seven Last Words, is directed to the one goal: the 
perfection of the life of grace and charity. Indeed, the very words of Christ give life, as was often 
manifested during his preaching and healing ministry. Rightly, then, did Peter reply when Christ 
asked if the Twelve also wanted to leave him: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Y ou háve the words 
of etemal life. We háve come to believe; we are convinced that you are Goďs holý one" (John 

Christ the Life 

Christ is our life in three different ways: as meritorious cause, he obtained for us the grace that is 
the life of the spirit; as efficient cause he is the very source of the life of grace; and as Head of 
the Mystical Body he communicates life to the members. 

Meritorious Cause 

The merit of Christ in relation to us flows from the redemptive sacrifice of his passion and death. 
Absolutely speaking, God could háve freely forgiven the sin of Adam, but he required complete 
satisfaction, and this was possible only through the instrumentality of a divine Person who could 
bridge the infinite gap between the human and the divine. The offense of sin is measured in 
terms of the one offended, who is God, and that is why purely human satisfaction can nevěr 
suffice as atonement for sin. 

When the Word was made flesh in the person of Christ, a human nature and a divine nature were 
hypostatically united in the Person of the Word. And although the slightest action performed by 
the incamate Word could háve redeemed the human race, the Father willed that mankind be 
redeemed through the passion and death of Christ. Consequently, the sacrificial act by which 
Christ atoned for sin was far beyond the demands of strict justice. So also, the merits of Christ 
cmcified are infinite and superabundant. This is the basis of our hope, for Christ died for us, and 
therefore his merits are at our disposition. Our weakness serveš as a basis for appealing to the 
divine mercy, and the infinite merits of Christ give us the assurance that salvation can be ours. 

All the graces bestowed on the human race since the originál sin of Adam háve been granted 
only by reason of the merits of Christ the Redeemer. All the graces bestowed on the human race 
until the end of the world will likewise be given through the merits of Jesus Christ. That is why 
the Church always prays "through Jesus Christ." 

Efficient Cause 

Jesus Christ is the Mediator, the Source, and the Dispenser of all grace because he is the 
Redeemer of the human race. And just as the Word needed to be united with a human nature in 
order to die for our redemption, so also the divine Person uses the sacred humanity of Christ as 
an instmment for conferring on men the supernatural life of grace. Thus, St. Paul writes: 

Though he was in the forai of God, he did not deem equality wiťh God something to be 
grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slavě, being bom in the 
likeness of . men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled 
himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross! Because of this, God highly 
exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every other name, so that at Jesus' 
name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every 
tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Fathen Jesus Christ is Lord! (Phil. 2:6-11). 

Jesus frequently referred to himself as the "Son of man" to indicate that through his sacred 
humanity he performed the works of his ministry, he preached his gospel, he worked miracles, he 
conferred grace and forgiveness of sin, and he died for our salvation. St. Thomas explains the 
function of the sacred humanity as follows: 

To give grace or the Holý Spirit authoritatively belongs to Christ as God, but to give it 
instrumentally belongs to him as man, since his humanity is the instrument of his 
divinity. And hence in virtue of his divinity his actions were salutary so far as they 
caused grace in us meritoriously and efficiently.Q) 

Head ofthe Mystical Body 

St. Paul speaks of Chrisťs headship over the Mystical Body when he states that Christ is "head of 
the Church, which is his body: the fullness of him who fills the universe in all its parts" (Eph. 
1:22-23). As Head of the body which is his Church, Christ exercises a capital influence over all 
the members of that body. 

St. Thomas explains that Christ as Head exercises a threefold primacy over the Mystical Body: a 
primacy of order, of perfection, and of power. He has the primacy oforder because he is the 
first-born of many brethren (Rom. 8:29) and has been placed above everything in this world and 
in the world to come (Eph. 1:21). He has the primacy of perfection because, as St. John says, he 
is full of grace and truth (John 1:16). He has the primacy of power because of his fullness we 
háve all received (John 1:16). These samé characteristics are listed by St. Paul when he says: 
"Now the Church is his body, he is its head. As he is the Beginning, he was first to be born from 
the dead, so that he should be first in every way; because God wanted all perfection to be found 
in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and 
everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross" (Col. 1:18-20). 

So far as it relates to our spirituál life, the most important aspects of Chrisťs headship are the 
primacy of perfection and power, for here we are touching the very formality of headship, 
námely, the life of grace. Christ, as we háve seen, possesses grace in its plenitude (primacy of 
perfection) and from his fullness we receive grace for grace (primacy of power). But how does 
Christ exercise his capital influence, his primacy of power, on souls? He exercises it in many 
ways, but they can be summarized under two headings: through the sacraments and through 
contact by faith vivified by charity. 

To understand the influence of Christ on souls through the sacraments, we need only recall the 
Churchs teaching that Christ instituted the seven sacraments as sensible signs that communicate 
grace to those who receive them worthily. (lO) It goes without saying that the influence and 
power of Christ are not so restricted to the sacramental signs that it would be impossible for 

persons to receive grace outside the sacramental structure. On the contrary, we can safely assume 
ťhat there are many souls who receive grace and grow in the spirituál life without having access 
to the sacraments. What the sacraments do is provide greater certitude and facility for the 
reception of grace. 

The Church has declared that the sacraments produce grace by their intrinsic power, received 
from the merits of Jesus Christ. They are in fact so dosely associated with Christ that after him 
they are the most powerful means of grace that we háve at our disposal. It is necessary, however, 
to notě that when the Council of Trent states that the sacraments can give grace by the very fact 
of being conferred (ex opere operato), it also asserts that this applies only to those recipients who 
pláce no obstacle to the sanctifying effects of the sacrament in guestion. (ll) Hence the 
importance of possessing the proper dispositions for the valid and fruitful reception of the 

Contact with Christ is effected also through a faith vivified by charity. St. Paul states that Christ 
dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17), and St. Thomas explains this by saying that "by 
faith Chrisťs power is united to us." (12) This was especially evident during Chrisťs earthly 
ministry when power came forth from him to cure sicknesses of body and soul (Luke 6:19). On 
numerous occasions Christ would say, as he did to the woman who anointed him: "Y our faith has 
saved you; go in peace" (Luke 7:50). But Christ is the samé, yestenday, today, and forever; 
therefore we can be confident that if we approach him with faith and love, the samé saving and 
healing power will emanate from him, as Dom Marmion points out: 

How, then, can we doubt that when we approach him, even outside „ the sacraments, 
with humility and confidence, divine power comes forth from him to enlighten, 
strengthen, and help us? No one has ever approached Jesus Christ with faith without 
being touched by the beneficent rays that ever escape from this fumace of light and 

Through Him, With Him, In Him 

The essence of the Christian life can be summarized in the following statement: the glory of God 
is the ultimate end, our sanctification is the proximate end, and incorporation in Christ is the only 
way of attaining both ends. Everything depends on living the mystery of Christ with 
ever-increasing intensity because Christian spirituality is nothing other than an intimate 
participation in the mystery of Christ. The liturgical formula that best describes the theology of 
our incorporation in Christ is the one that the celebrant pronounces in the Mass as he holds aloft 
the sacred species: "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holý Spirit, all glory and 
honor are yours, almighty Father, forever and ever." 

As expressed in this formula, the glory of the Trinity is the absolute end of the whole created 
universe and of the redemption and sanctification of mankind. But in the pian of God, the glory 
of the Trinity is realized through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. Therefore the principál 
concem of Christians who are striving for perfection should be to configure themselves to Christ 
and to do all things in Christ. Then they can make a worthy offering of all their actions to the 
heavenly Father, and the Father will love them, as Jesus has promised: "The Father already loves 

you, because you háve loved me and háve believed that I came from God" (John 16:27). For this 
reason the Church nevěr asks anyťhing from the Faťher except "through Jesus Christ, our Lord." 

Not only should Christians do all ťhings and ask all things through Jesus Christ they should also 
strive to do all things with Christ. We háve already seen that this concept of union with Christ 
appears constantly in the writings of St. Paul. Blessed as he was with a profound understanding 
of the mystery of Christ St. Paul could not conceive of anything that would ever separate him 
from Christ: 

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present 
nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, 
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39). 

Jesus Christ is the source of grace for us, and the grace that he bestows as Head of the Mystical 
Body is the selfsame grace that filled his sacred humanity with "all the fullness of God" (Eph. 
3:19). Moreover, as the second Person of the Trinity, the Word dwells in our souls through grace. 
Therefore, to say that we can and should do all things with Christ is no pious exaggeration; it is a 
theological fact. Every soul that receives from Christ the life of grace that he came to give us ; is 
by that very fact living a life of union with Christ. But one should also live with an awareness of 
union with Christ and this is achieved through acts of faith in Christ meditation on the mysteries 
of the life of Christ and freguent reception of the sacraments instituted by Christ especially the 

To perform one's actions through Christ and with Christ denotes a high degree of perfection in 
one's faith and love, but greater still is that identification with Christ that enables the soul to do 
all things in Christ. To understand what this means it is helpful to think of our incorporation in 
Christ as Head of the Mystical Body or as the Vine of which we are the branches. St. Augustine 
taught that when Christ incorporated us to himself and made us members of his Mystical Body, 
we in a sense became Christ. This being so, all our actions and sufferings také on a 
Christocentric modality, and it is now no longer we who live and act but Christ who lives and 
acts in us (cf. Col. 1:24; 1:29; Matt. 10:42). The slightest action performed in Christ then takés 
on an infinite value, so to speak, gives great glory to God, and causes the heavenly Father to look 
on us with love and complacence. 

Everything is directed to the Father. This was the constant and unigue goal of everything that 
Jesus did. He sought always to do the Fatheťs will (Matt. 26:39) and to glorify his Father (John 
17:1). The first words of Christ recorded in the Gospel are: "Did you not know I had to be in my 
Fatheťs house?" (Luke 2:49); and the last words he spoke on the cross were: "Father, into your 
hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). St. Paul summarizes beautifully our union with Christ 
and the need of directing all things to the glory of the Father: "All are yours; and you are Chrisťs; 
and Christ is Goďs" (1 Cor. 3:22-23). 

But the glory of God does not pertain exclusively to the Father; it is glory giver. to the entire 
Trinity. In this way the divine circular motion is completed: Jesus, as Head and Mediator, gives 
the supematural life of grace to his members; they, in turn, give glory to the Trinity by returning 
the gifts of the Spirit through Christ, with Christ and in Christ. 

Mary--Moťher and Mediatrix 

Jesus came that we might háve life and háve it to the full, as we read time and again in St. John's 
Gospel. Similarly, the Church places the following words on the lips of Mary: "He who finds me 
finds life, and wins favor from the Lord" (Prov. 8:35). 

This indicates that Mary is not only the Mother of Christ, and therefore the Mother of God; she is 
also the Mother and Mediatrix of grace, and therefore the Mother of the Church, the Mystical 
Body and of the people of God. It is Mary's spirituál matemity that we wish to stress in these 
pages, for it is in her role as Mother and Mediatrix of grace that we can best appreciate Mary's 
role in our spirituál life. Leon Bloy touches on this aspect of Mary in the following lineš: 

As long as you háve not leamed to know Mary and háve not given her your heart, you ; 
will remain in darkness because you can receive the Holý Spirit only in her and through 
her .... Keep the exceptional teaching I am giving you hidden in the depths of your soul, 
and it will make you glow before the Lord like a magnificent torch. Y ou will feel, you 
will understand that inasmuch as the Word made flesh, Jesus the Redeemer, was given to 
the world by Mary his Mother, it follows necessarily that we who are his members and 
his brothers, must be brought forth by her, not according to the flesh but according to the 
Spirit. The Church, whose language is ordinarily mysterious -- since she is obliged to 
speak in the manner in which God himself has spoken -- teaches us that no grace, no 
power, no love, indeed nothing, absolutely nothing comes to us from God except through 
Mary .... And that is an admirable, a sublime truth. 

Now if you ask me how it happens that Mary, who is a reál woman, or rather the reál 
Woman, is so completely identified with the third Divine Person that she cannot be 
separated from him, I shall be obliged to leave you without an answer. I am not the 
confidant of the Blessed Trinity. But I know in a way that is absolutely, infinitely certain, 
that this is so. The Church, ever mysterious, calls Mary the Spouse of the Holý Ghost. 
This expression does not give forth much light, and yet it permits us to assume that the 
Mother of the Son of God possesses extraordinary importance and dignity .(14) 

The key to Mary's greatness and dignity is her divine matemity, as is beautifully expressed in the 
most popular of Marian prayers, the Hail Mary. In the first part we salute Mary in the words of 
the angel, Hail, full of grace," to indicate that she was a chosen vessel, selected by God to be the 
Mother of his Son through the instrumentality of the Holý Spirit. In the light of her sublime 
vocation, everything in her life, before and afterthe Annunciation, revolves around her divine 
matemity. She was conceived immaculate, preserved from all stain of sin, so that she could be a 
Mater digna, a Mother worthy of Goďs only begotten Son. 

In the second part of the Hail Mary we implore her help and her prayers because as Mother of 
God she is an all-powerful advocate. In addition, she is our Mother, and she became such at the 
very moment that she uttered her fiat and the Word became flesh, although it was not solemnly 
ratified until that sublime moment when Jesus said from the cross: "Behold thy son .... Behold 
thy Mother." Thus, Mary's divine matemity is necessarily linked to her spirituál matemity as 
Mother of grace, which follows as a logical conseguence from the fact that she is Mother of 
Christ. We offer two beautiful testimonies to this doctrine, the first from St. John Fades and the 
second from St. Louis Mary de Montfort: 

From the instant the Blessed Virgin gave her consent to the Incamation of the Son of God 

wiťhin her, she contributed to the salvation of all the elect. From that happy moment on, 
she has always carried them like a very good mother, that is, within the depths of her 
heart. This is trne, for inasmuch as the Son of God is the Head of all the elect they are 
one with him just as members are one with their head. And just as Mary has always 
carried this adorable Head in her maternal heart, so also she has always carried and will 
always carry in it all his authentic members. (15) 

If Jesus Christ, the Head of men, is born in her, the predestinate, who are members of that 
Head, ought also to be born in her, by a necessary consequence. One and the samé 
mother does not bring forth into the world the head without the members, or the members 
without the head; for this would be a monster of nature. So in like manner, in the order of 
grace, the Head and the members are bom of one and the samé Mother .... 

Besides this, Jesus being at present as much as ever the fruit of Mary -- as heaven and 
earth repeat thousands and thousands of times a day: "and blessed is the fruit of thy 
womb, Jesus" -- it is certain that Jesus Christ is, for each man in particular who possesses 
him, as truly the fruit of the womb of Mary as he is for the whole world in generál; so 
that if any one of the faithful has Jesus Christ formed in his heart, he can say boldly: "All 
thanks be to Mary! What I possess is her effect and her fruit, and without her I should 
nevěr háve had it." We can apply to her more than St. Paul applied to himself the words: 
"I am in labor again with all the children of God, until Jesus Christ my Son be formed in 
them in the fullness of his age" (Gal. 4:19).(16) 

Through grace, every Christian is a member of Christ and, by that very fact, is also a child of 
Mary. The spirituál maternity of Mary is linked by logical necessity to the dogma of the Mystical 
Body. This indicates also that Mary's spirituál motherhood is not something added by extrinsic 
denomination to. her divine maternity; rather, both matemities are one and simultaneous, as we 
háve already indicated. 

Mary's role in the sanctification of the Christian has been beautifully described in the writings of 
St. Louis Mary de Montfort. Here is a synthesis of his teaching: All Christians are called to 
perfection and sanctity; to reach perfection it is necessary to practice and perfect the virtues; io 
practice the virtues we need the help of Goďs grace; to obtain Goďs grace it is necessary to 
receive it through Mary. The reasons for the last statement are as follows: (1) of all Goďs 
creatures, only Mary found grace before God, both for herself and for others; (2) Mary gave birth 
to the Author of grace and is therefore called the Mother of grace; (3) in giving Mary his only 
begotten Son, the eternal Father gave Mary all graces; (4) God appointed Mary as dispenser of 
grace, and by reason of this office she gives grace to whom she wishes and when she wishes; (5) 
as in the natural order a child must háve a father and a mother, so in the order of grace the 
Christian has God as the father and Mary as the mother; (6) since Mary formed the Head of the 
Mystical Body, she should also form the members; (7) Mary was and still remains the spouse of 
the Holý Spirit; (8) as in the natural order the child is nourished by its mother, in the supematural 
order Mary nourishes and strengthens her children; and (9) he who finds Mary, finds Jesus, who 
is with her always. (17) 

We receive grace through Jesus Christ in virtue of his merits as well as by reason of the fact that 
he is the source and fountain of grace as Head of the Mystical Body. In like manner we receive 
grace through Mary as Mediatrix and co-Redemptrix. Pope BenedictXV asserted that the 

Blessed Virgin, "in conjunction with Christ, redeemed the human race." (18) Therefore, in some 
unique way, Mary our Mother merited grace for us. Her cooperation with God in the Incamation 
of his Son, her plenitude of grace and her ever-increasing charity, her total submission to the will 
of the Father -- all these qualities serve as a sound basis for her speciál type of merit for the 
sanctification of others. 

It is trne that only Jesus Christ could merit for us in strict justice; therefore when we speak of 
Mary's merit it can only be a question of congruous merit. Her merit rests completely on that of 
her Son, Jesus Christ, who made it possible that her life and works and prayers could be 
meritorious for herself and for others. Her merit is congruous in the highest possible degree, as 
St. Pius X indicated when he wrote: "In the work of our salvation, Christ joined his Mother to 
himself in such a way that she merited for us congruously what he himself merited for us 
condignly."(19) It is on the basis of her speciál type of merit that she deserves to be called 
Mediatrix of all graces and co-Redemptrix. 

Like her Son, Jesus Christ, Mary is in the statě of glory . There she is closer to us and our needs 
and less a stranger to us than the departed souls of our beloved dead. Her love for her spirituál 
children bridges the vast distance between heaven and earth even as it places her before the 
throne of God to intercede for them. Her activity on behalf of her children is described as follows 
by a contemporary theologian: 

The activity of the Blessed Virgin on our behalf can, it seems, be summed up in two 
decisive interventions that can be deduced from the Gospels .... At Cana, her intervention 
consisted in taking the initiative to say to her Son: "They háve no wine," in having the 
boldness to urge him to act and then to act herself accordingly. On Calvary her 
intervention took pláce when everything within her impelled her to repeat after him: 
"They know not what they do." This would seem to encompass everything: on the one 
nand, our poor humanity in its indigence and sinfulness; and on the other nand, the 
incomparable maternity that wraps humanity in its grace and rushes to its rescue. Indeed 
these two acts are the most matemal acts possible. The first consists in giving her 
children something they need; the other, in winning forgiveness for their misdeeds. These 
acts reveal Mary in the fullness of her motherhood. (20) 

Having seen the nature of Mary's role in our sanctification, we again turn to St. Louis Mary de 
Montfort to learn the characteristics of true devotion to our heavenly Mother. First, our devotion 
should be interior; that is, it should be firmly established in the mind and heart. Secondly, it 
should be tender; that is, characterized by the respectful and trustful love of a child for a loving 
mother. Thirdly, it should be holý; that is, it should prompt souls to avoid sin and to cultivate the 
Christian virtues. Fourthly, it should be constant; that is, it should strengthen the soul in good so 
that it will not abandon its spirituál practices. Fifthly, it should be disinterested; that is, it should 
enable the soul to rise above šelf and self-centered interest to seek God alone and his glory .(21] 


1. Summa theologiae, I-II, q. 108, a. 1; III, q. 7, a. 8. 
St. Paul has another doxology in Col. 1:15-20. 

Cf. Mystici Corporis, pp. 32-3; 42. See Denz.-Schón. 3811. 

St. Teresa, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1946), p. 

5. Columba Marmion, Christ, the Life ofthe Soul (St. Louis: B. Hender, 1936), p. 39. 

M. M. Philipon, The Spirituál Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth ofthe Trinity (Westminster, Md.: 
Newman, 1947), p. 54. 

Marmion, op. cit, pp. 50-1. 


Summa theologiae, III, q. 8, a. 1, ad 1. 

10. Council of Trent, Denz.-Schón, 1606. 

/bíd., 1451; 1606. 

Summa theologiae, III, q. 62, a. 5, ad 2. 

Marmion, op. cit, p. 89. 

Leon Bloy, Lettres a sa fiancée (Paris, 1922), p. 127. 

15. R. Bernard, The Mystery ofMary, trans. A. M. Bouchard, (St. Louis: B. Hender, 1960), p. 

St. Louis Mary de Montfort, TrueDevotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Bay Shore, N.Y .: 
Montfort Fathers, 1949), pp. 21-2. 

Ibid., Part I, Chap. 1. 

Sodalitati N.D. a bona mořte, March2, 1918. 

Ad diem illum, February 4, 1904; Denz.-Schón. 3370. 

R. Bernard, op. cit, pp. 292-93. 

21. St. Louis Mary de Montfort, op. cit, Part I, Chap. 3. 

The Supernatural Organism 

Each of us is a complex being composed of body and soul, of matter and spirit, intimately united 
to form one person. It has been said that each of us is a microcosm, a synthesis of all creation. 
We háve existence, as do inanimate things; we are nourished, reproduce, and grow, as do plants; 
we háve sensate knowledge, passions, and the power of locomotion, as do animals; and like the 
angels, we can know the spirituál truth and be drawn to spirituál good. All these vital powers - 
vegetative, sensitive, and rational -- constitute the natural life of man. They are not superimposed 
one on the other; they compenetrate one another and mutually complement one another, to lead 

to the natural perfection of the whole person. 

There is nothing in our nátuře ťhat postulates, either proximately or remotely, the supematural 
order. The elevation to this order is a totally gratuitous favor of God that infinitely transcends all 
the exigencies of nátuře. Nevertheless, there is a close analogy between the natural and the 
supematural orders, for grace does not destroy nature but perfects and elevates it. 

The supematural order constitutes a trne life for us and has an organism that is similar to the 
natural vital organism. As in the natural order we can distinguish four basic elements in human 
life -- the living subject, the formal principle of life, the faculties or powers, and the operations of 
those faculties -- so we can find similar elements in our supematural organism. The subject is the 
soul; the formal principle of supematural life is sanctifying grace; the faculties are the infused 
virtues and the gifts of the Holý Spirit; and the operations are the acts of those virtues and gifts. 

The human soul is a spirituál substance that is independent of matter in its being and its 
operations, although while it is in the body it makes use of bodily powers for the exercise of 
various functions. But the soul is not a completely independent substance, nor can the soul alone 
be properly called a person. A person is not the body alone nor the soul alone, but the composite 
that results from the substantial union of the two. 

We know from reason and from sound philosophy, and also from the teaching of the Church,(l) 
that the soul is the substantial form of the body. Conseguently, the soul gives us our essential 
grade of perfection, and communicates to the body the samé act of being by which the soul itself 
exists. But the soul is not immediately operative; it needs faculties or powers for operation; and 
the specifically human faculties that emanate from the essence of the soul are the intellect and 
the will. 

Such is the subject in whichour supematural life resides. Grace, which is the formal principle of 
that supematural life, is rooted in the very essence of the soul in a static manner. The virtues and 
the gifts, which are the dynamic elements in the supematural organism, reside in the human 
faculties or powers and elevate them to the supematural order. 

Sanctifying Grace 

We háve said that sanctifying grace is the formal principle of our supematural organism, as the 
spirituál soul is the formal principle of our natural vital organism. As a participation in the very 
nature of God, grace elevates us to the status of children of God and heirs of heaven. "We are 
children of God," exclaims St. Paul. "But if we are children, we are heirs as well; heirs of God, 
heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:16-17). And in his famous sermon before the Areopagus, he insists 
that we are the race of God: "We are Goďs offspring" (Acts 17:29). 

Sanctifying grace can be defined as a supematural guality, inhering in the soul, which gives us a 
physical and formal participation, although analogous and accidental, in the very nature and life 
of God. Grace is clearly supematural, as the formal principle that elevates us and constitutes us 
in the supematural life. It far excels all natural things and makes us enter into the sphere of the 
divine. St. Thomas has said that the minimum degree of sanctifying grace in ofe individual is 
greater than the natural good of the entire universe.(2) 

That grace inheres in the soul is denied by those who hold for extrinsic justification, but it is a 

truth of faith defined by the Council of Trent.(3) The theological explanation is contained in the 
following principle: "The love of God infuses and creates goodness in things." In us, love is bom 
of the good object, blit God creates goodness in an object by the mere fact of loving it. And since 
love finds or makes things similarto itself, Goďs love forus elevates us to his level and deifies 
us, so to speak, by means of a formal participation in the divine nátuře. "It is necessary that God 
alone deify by communicating his divine nátuře through a certain participation of likeness."(4) 
Briefly, God loves with a supematural love, and since Goďs love is the cause of goodness, it 
follows that he produces in tne person he loves the supematural goodness that is grace. 

Participation is the assimilation by an inferior thing of some perfection existing in a superior 
thing. Sanctifying grace gives us a physical, formal, analogous and accidental participation in 
the divine nature. That it makes us participants in the divine nature is a truth constantly repeated 
in Sacred Scripture. St. Peter says, for example: "He has bestowed on us the great and precious 
things he promised, so that through these you ... might become sharers of the divine nature" (2 
Pet. 1:4). The liturgy also proclaims this fact in the Preface for the feast of the Ascension: "He 
ascended to heaven to make us participants in his divinity." And how persuasively St. Leo speaks 
of this truth when he says: "Recognize your dignity, O Christian, and having been made a 
participant of the divine nature, do not desire to retům to the baseness of your former condition." 

But it is necessary to examine the manner in which sanctifying grace confers a participation in 
the divine nature. God is not like creatures, for he and he alone is being by his very essence, 
while all creatures are being by participation. Nevertheless, creatures are in some way similar to 
God because every agent produces something similarto itself in some respect. But it cannot be 
said that creatures are like God by reason of a communication of form according to genus and 
species, but only according to a certain analogy, because God is being by essence, whereas 
creatures are being by participation. 

Hence, there are three classes of creatures that are like him in some respect: Irrational creatures 
participate in the divine perfection so far as they háve being, but this likeness is so remote that it 
is called a trace or vestige. Rational creatures, so far as they are gifted with a spirituál soul and 
faculties, represent the perfections of God in a more explicit manner; for that reason they. are 
called the natural image of God. The souls ofthejust are united with God by sanctifying grace 
and for that reason they are called the supematural image of God and, indeed, his adopted 

But does sanctifying grace reguire a physical and formal participation in the very nature of God? 
Undoubtedly yes. A part from the fact that this is a truth that is verified in relevation, there are 
theological arguments to support it. 

First, the operations proper to a superior nature cannot become connatural to lower nature unless 
the latter participates in some way in the former, because as a thing is, so it acts, and the effects 
cannot be greater than the cause. But some supematural operations do become connatural to man 
through grace. Therefore, it is evident that man, through grace, participates physically and 
formally in the very nature ofGod. 

Secondly, from grace springs an inclination to God as he is in himself. But an inclination to God 
as he is in himself must be rooted in a nature that is divine, at least by participation. Moreover, 
this participation must be physical and formal, since the inclination proceeds physically and 

formally from that participation. 

Thirdly, the infused virtues are the faculties of supematural operations in us; but, since operation 
follows being, a supematural operation that proceeds from the soul presupposes in the soul the 
presence of a supematural entity, and this can be nothing other than a physical and formal 
participation in the nátuře of God himself. It is true that through the power of an actual grace a 
sinner can realize a supematural act without the need of sanctifying grace, but we are speaking of 
an act that proceeds from the soul connaturally, and not of an impulse to second act without 
passing through the proximate habitual dispositions. 

It now remains for us to examine in what sense the physical and formal participation in the 
divine nature is accidental and analogous. Analogous participation signifies that the divine 
nature is not communicated to us univocally, as the Father transmits it to his Son by way of the 
eternal generation. We do not become divinized through grace by generation or by a pantheistic 
union of our substance with the divine substance. Rather it is an analogous participation in virtue 
of which that which exists in God in an infinite manner is participated by the soul in a limited 
and finite manner. The mirror that captures the image of the sun does not acguire the nature of 
the sun but merely reflects its splendor. In like manner, says St. Leo, "the originál dignity of our 
race lies in the fact that the divine goodness shines in us as in a resplendent mirror." 

The reason why participation in the divine nature through grace is an accidental one is explained 
by St. Thomas: "Every substance constitutes either the nature of the thing of which it is the 
substance, or it is a part of the nature, as matter and form are called substance. And because 
grace is above all nature, it cannot be a substance or a substantial form, but it is an accidental 
form of the soul. Hence what is substantial in God becomes accidental in the soul that 
participates in the divine goodness. "(5) 

Moreover, the Council of Trent expressly teaches that habitual grace inheres in the soul of 
man.(6) But that which inheres in another is not a substance but an accident, as we leam in 
philosophy. Nor does this in any way lessen the dignity of grace, for as a supematural accident it 
infinitely transcends all created or creatable natural substances. Let us not forget the words of St. 
Thomas, to the effect that the good of grace in one individual surpasses the good of nature in the 
entire universe. 

We háve stated that through grace we share in the nature and life of God. There are several 
reasons for saying this: 

1. Grace is the connatural principle of the operations that reach God under the formal 
aspect of deity. Therefore, grace, as the principle of these operations, must necessarily 
participate in the divine nature precisely as divine, that is, under the formal aspect of 

The antecedent of this argument is undeniable; all supematural love and knowledge háve 
God as their object. They focus directly on God as he is in himself, whether it be through 
the veil of faith or in the clear light of the beatific vision. The conclusion necessarily 
follows from the fact that grace is the root principle of the theological virtues. 

2. Supematural participation in the divine nature could not otherwise be distinguished 
from a merely natural participation, which is also a formal participation, because man is 

an image of God. Therefore the sharing in the divine nátuře precisely as divine 
constitutes the distinction between the natural and the supernatural. 

3. In order to transcend the natural order, the supernatural form that is grace must be 
either God himself or something that touches God under the formal aspect of his deity. 
But grace is not God himself, as is evident, and hence it must necessarily be something 
that touches God precisely under the formality of his deity. In other words, it is a 
participation of the divine nature precisely as divine. 

St. Thomas says that "grace is nothing other than a certain participated likeness of the divine 
nature. "(7) If we také the intimate nature of God as an exemplár, sanctifying grace is a perfect 
imitation that is effected in us by divine infusion. It produces in the soul a likeness to God that 
infinitely transcends that which is had in the purely natural order. By reason of this, we become 
Goďs children by adoption and form a part' of the family of God. Such is the sublime grandeur to 
which we are elevated by grace. 

Effectsof Grace 

The first effect of sanctifying grace is that it gives us that participation in the divine nature, of 
which we háve already spoken. This is the root and foundation of all the other effects that flow 
from sanctifying grace. 

Among the other effects, the three mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle, to the Romans hold a 
pláce of preeminence: "Y ou did not receive a spirit of slavery leading you back into fear, but a 
spirit of adoption through which we cry out, 'Abba!' (that is, 'Fatheť). The Spirit himself gives 
witness with our spirit that we are children of God. But if we are children, we are heirs as well: 
heirs of God, heirs with Chrisť (Rom. 8:15-17). 

Grace Makes UsAdopted Children ofGod 

God the Father has only one Son according to nature: the eternal Word. Only to him is there 
transmitted etemally, by an ineffable intellectual generation, the divine nature in all its plenitude. 
In virtue of this natural generation the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity possesses the 
selfsame divine essence of the Father and is God as fully as the Father is God. Therefore, Christ, 
whose human nature is hypostatically united with the Person of the Word, is not the adopted Son 
of God, but the natural Son, in all the rigor of the word. 

Our divine filiation through grace is of a different kind. It is not a guestion of a natural filiation 
but of an adoptive filiation. But it is necessary to understand this truth correctly in order not to 
form a deficient concept of this great dignity. Adoption is the gratuitous admission of a stranger 
to a family. The child is henceforth considered as a son or daughter and is given a right to 
inheritance of the family good. Our adoption through grace does this and much more. 

Purely human or legal adoption confers on the one adopted the rights of a legitimate child but 
without infusing in the adopted the blood of the family, and hence without causing any intrinsic 
change in the person adopted. On the other hand, on adopting us as his children, the one and 
triune God infuses sanctifying grace in us, which gives us a reál and formal participation in the 
divine nature itself . 

It is an intrinsic adoption that places in our souls, physically and formaHy, a divine reality in 
virtue of which we share in ťhe very life of God. It is a trne generation, a spirituál birth, and it 
reflects, analogically, the etemal generation of the Word of God. As St. John says explicitly, 
sanctifying grace not only gives us the right to be called sons of God, but it also makes us such in 
reality: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God! Y et 
that is what we are" (1 John 3:1). 

Grace Makes Us True Heirs ofGod 

This is an inevitable conseguence of our divine adoptive filiation. St. Paul says expressly: "If we 
are children, we are heirs as well" (Rom. 8:17). And it is God himself, one in essence and three 
in persons, who is our inheritance as adopted children. "I am your shield; I will make your 
reward very great," God said to Abraham (Gen. 15:1); and he says the samé to every soul in 

The beatific vision and the enjoyment of God that accompanies it are the principál part of the 
heritage that belongs, through grace, to the adopted children of God. This will cause the soul 
ineffable happiness, which will completely satisfy all its aspirations and longings. And the soul 
will receive all these benefits and gifts under the title of justice. Grace is entirely gratuitous; but 
once possessed, it gives us the capacity to merit heaven under the title of justice. Since grace is a 
divine form that inheres in the soul, any supernatural action of which grace is the root and 
principle bespeaks an intrinsic relation to glory and carries with it a title to the samé. Grace and 
glory are situated on the samé plane, and they are substantially the samé life. There is between 
them only a difference of grade or degree. It is the samé life in its initial or terminál stage. Thus, 
St. Thomas states that "grace is nothing other than the beginning of glory in us."(8) 

Grace Makes Us Coheirs With Christ 

This relation derives immediately from the two already mentioned. The reason, as St. Augustine 
points out, is that he who says "Our Father" to the Father of Christ, what shall he say to Christ 
but brother?{9) By the very fact that sanctifying grace communicates to us a participation in the 
divine life that Christ possesses in all its plenitude, it necessarily follows that we become his 
brothers and sisters. He desired to be our brother acconding to his. humanity, in order to make us 
his brothers and sisters according to his divinity. St. Paul states that God has predestined us "to 
share the image of his Son, that the Son might be the first-bom of many brothers" (Rom. 8:29). 
By nature Christ is the only Son; but in the order of grace and adoption he is our elder Brother, 
as well as our Head and the cause of our salvation. 

For this reason, the Father deigns to look upon us as if we were one thing with the Son. He loves 
us as he loves his Son; he looks on Christ as our brother and confers on us the title to the samé 
heritage. We are coheirs with Christ. "Indeed, it was fitting that when bringing many sons to 
glory God, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make their leader in the work of 
salvation perfect through suffering. He who consecrates and those who are consecrated háve one 
and the samé Father. Therefore he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, 'I will announce 
yournameto my brothers, I will sing your praises in the midst of the assembly' " (Heb. 2:10-12). 
God has modeled us on Christ; with Christ, we are children of the samé Father who is in heaven. 
All this will be effected by realizing the šupneme desire of Christ: that we be one with him as he 
himself is one with the Father. The foregoing are the three principál effects of grace, but they are 

not tne only effects. The others are as follows: 

Grace Gives Us Supernatural Life 

The physical and foraial participation in the very nátuře of God, which constitutes the essence of 
sanctifying grace, infinitely transcends the being and exigencies of every created nátuře, human 
or angelic. By it, we are elevated not only above the human plane but even above the angelic 
nátuře. We enter into the sphere of the divine, are made members of the family of God, and 
begin to live in a divine manner. Grace, conseguently, has communicated to us a new type of 
life, infinitely superior to that of nature; it is a supernatural life. 

Grace Makes Us Just and P leasing to God 

As a physical participation in the divine nature, grace necessarily gives us a sharing in the divine 
justice and sanctity, since all the attributes of God are really identified with his essence. 
Therefore, sanctifying grace is absolutely incompatible with mortal sin. 

The Council of Trent states that the justification of the sinner through sanctifying grace "is not 
merely the remission of sins but also the sanctification and interior renovation of man by the 
voluntary reception of grace and the gifts, by which man is changed from unjust to just, and from 
an enemy into a friend." A little further on, the Council adds that the unigue formal cause of the 
justification is "the justice óf God, not that which makes him just, but that which makes us just; 
or rather, that which, given by him, renews us interiorly and makes us not only to be reputed as 
just but that we should be called such and should be such in very tmth." (10) 

Grace Gives Us the C apatity for Supernatural Merit 

Without sanctifying grace, the most heroic natural works would háve absolutely, no value for 
etemal life. A person who lacks grace is a corpse in the supernatural order, and the dead can 
merit nothing. Supernatural merit presupposes radically the possession of the supernatural life. 
This principle is of the greatest importance in practice. While people are in mortal sin, they are 
incapacitated for meriting anything at all in the supernatural order. 

Grace Unites Us Intimately With God 

United as we are with God in . the natural order through. his divine conserving power, which 
makes him truly present to all creatures by his essence, presence, and power, sanctifying grace 
increases this union to an ineffable degree and transforms and raises it to an infinitely higher type 
of union. By reason of this new union, God is present in the just soul as a friend, and not merely 
as creator and conserver, establishing a mutual exchange of love and friendship between the soul 
and himself. "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 

The ultimate perfection of grace in this life and even the indissoluble union of the beatific vision 
in glory are not substantially. different from the union effected between God and the soul that 
enjoys even the minimal degree of sanctifying grace. There is, of course, a difference in the 
intensity and intimacy of union, but all the grades are of the samé substantial order. 

Grace Makes Us Living Temples ofthe Trinity 

This is. a consequence of what we háve just stated, and Christ himself revealed ťhis truth when 
he said: "Anyone who loves me will be trne, to my word, and my Father will love nim; we will 
come to him and make our dwelling pláce with nim" (John 14:23). The dogma of the indwelling 
Trinity is a cornerstone of the entire systematic structure of spirituál theology, for it constitutes 
that "kingdom of God within us" where the mystical experience and union are brought to their 
full perfection here on earth. We shall therefore consider in greater detail this effect of grace that 
under some aspects would seem to be identified with grace .or at least to touch the very formality 
of sanctifying grace. 

Indwelling of the Trinity 

The indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in the souls of the just is clearly revealed in the New 
Testament as shown in the following: 

If a man loves me, he will keep 'my word, and my Father will love him, and we will 
come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23). 

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 

Do you not know that you are G oďs temple and that Goďs Spirit dwells in you? If any 
one destroys Goďs temple, God will destroy him. For Goďs temple is holý, and that 
temple you are (1 Cor. 3:16-17). 

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holý Spirit within you, which you 
háve from God? You are notyour own (1 Cor.6:19). 

Guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holý Spirit who dwells within us (2 
Tim. 1:14). 

Scripture uses various formulas to express the truth that God dwells in the soul in grace. The 
indwelling is attributed to the Holý Spirit, not because there is any speciál presence of the Holý 
Spirit that is not common to Father and the Son, but because this is a work of the love of God, 
and the Holý Spirit is essential love in the bosom of the Trinity. 

Theologians háve written much and disputed much about the nature of the indwelling of the 
Trinity in the souls of the just. Perhaps none of the theories provides an adequate explanation; 
certainly no one of them has been commonly accepted. But what is important for our purposes is 
not so much the formality and mode of the indwelling as the fact, its purpose, and its 
consequences. And here we find common agreement among theologians and spirituál writers. 

To acclimate ourselves to this mystery, it is well to recall that through sanctifying grace we are 
"begotten of God" (1 John 3:9). We live a new life, the participated divine life through which we 
become children of God. The doctrine of our divine filiation is constantly repeated in the pages 
of Scripture, as is that of the divine indwelling, to which it is dosely related. 

What does God do when he dwells in a soul? Nothing other than to communicate himself to that 
soul, to engender it as his child, which is to give it a participation in his nature and his life. And 
that generation is not verified, as is human generation, by a transient action through which the 

child begins to be and to live independently of tne father who provided tne seed. Rather, it 
presupposes a continued act of God so long as the soul remains in his friendship and grace. 

Through grace, the soul is constantly receiving from God its supematural life, as the embryo in 
the womb is constantly receiving vital sustenance from the mother. For this reason did Christ 
come into the world, that we might live by him, as St. John says (1 John 4:9), and Christ himself 
says that he came that we might háve life and háve it more abundantly (ibid.). Now we can see 
why St. Paul says: "And the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me" (Gal. 2:20). 

Our divine adoptive generation has some similarity with the etemal generation of the Word in 
the bosom of the Father, and our union with God through grace. is somewhat similar to that 
which exists between the Word and the Father through the Holý Spirit. No theologian would ever 
háve dared to say this, were it not for the sublime words of Christ spoken at the Last Supper: 

I do not pray for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their 
word, that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be 
(one] in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. I háve given them the glory you 
gave me that they may be one, as we are one -- 1 living in them, you living in me -- that 
their unity may be complete. So shall the world know that you sent me, and that you 
loved them as you loved me (John 17:20-23). 

The Son is one with the Father by the unity of nature; we are one with God by the formal and 
physical participation of his divine nature, which participation is nothing other than sanctifying 
grace. The Son lives by the Father, and we live by participation in God. He is in the Father, and 
the Father is in him; we are also in God and God is in us. 

Thus, through grace we are introduced into the life of the Trinity, which is the life of God, and 
God dwells in us and communicates his divine life to us. And it is the three Persons who dwell in 
us, since it is not the property of any one Person in particular to engender us as children of God, 
but it is an action common to the Three. They are in the just soul, all three Persons, engendering 
that soul supematurally, vivifying it with their life, introducing it through knowledge and love to 
the most profound relationships. Here the Father engenders the Son, and from the Father and the 
Son proceeds the Holý Spirit, thus realizing in the soul the sublime mystery of the triune unity 
and the one Trinity, which is the inner life of God himself. 

It is a fact testified by the mystics, that in the most profound center of their souls they 
experienced the august presence of the Blessed Trinity working intensely in them. And the 
experience of the mystics is a verification of the lofty teachings of theology. St. Thomas, writing 
as a theologian, makes the following startling statement: "By the gift of sanctifying grace, the 
rational creature is perfected so that it can freely use not only that created gift but enjoy the 
divine Person himself." And in the samé pláce he writes: "We are said to possess only what we 
can freely use or enjoy; and to háve the power of enjoying the divine Person can only be through 
sanctifying grace." (li) 

Here in all its sublime grandeur is the purpose of the indwelling of the Trinity in our souls. God 
himself, one in essence and three in Persons, becomes the object of ari intimate experience, and 
when this experimental joy reaches the culmination of the transforming union, the souls that 
háve reached this summit are unable to express themselves in human language. They prefer to 

taste in silence ťhat which in no way could be explained to others. As St. John of tne Cross points 

There are no words to expound such sublime things of God as come to pass in these 
souls; the proper way to speak is for one that knows them to understand them inwardly 
and to feel them inwardly and enjoy them and be silent conceming them .... This alone 
can be said of it with tmth, that it savors of etemal life. For alťhough in this life we may 
not háve perfect fruition of it, as in glory, neverťheless, this touch, being of God, savors 
of eternal life. (12) 

In these sublime heights, where the soul experiences the divine indwelling that it believed and 
knew through faith, it now experiences as if by sight and touch, as St. Teresa explains: 

So that what we hold by faith the soul may be said here to grasp by sight, although 
noťhing is seen by the eyes, either of the body or of the soul; for it is no imaginary vision. 
Here all three Persons communicate themselves to the soul and speak to the soul and 
explain to it those words which the gospel attributes to the Lord, námely, that he and the 
Faťher and the Holý Spirit will come to dwell with the soul, which loves him and keeps 
his commandments. (13) 


The process of sanctification is primarily the work of God, since it pertains to the order of grace, 
but it also reguires human cooperation with the help of grace. Habitual or sanctifying grace, as 
we háve seen, is the basic bond of union between God and the soul and, as such, it is meant to be 
permanent. Actual grace, on the other hand, is a transient stimulation or movement by which the 
soul is prompted to do or receive something relating to justification, sanctification, or salvation. 
Sanctifying grace is centrál to the Christian life, since it is the very principle of that life, and 
therefore we háve treated it at length. Actual grace is more dosely related to man's cooperation 
with God, and since it touches the freedom and choice of man's will, and the causality and 
inteivention of God in human acts, it has given rise to many disputed guestions concerning man's 
need of actual grace to attain justification or to perform salutary acts when justified. It is not 
necessary for us to enter the field of controversy, but simply to demonstrate the necessity of 
actual grace in the Christian life and to notě the principál ty pes. 

If we accept the basic division of grace into the grace that sanctifies the recipient (gratia gratum 
faciens) and the grace that sanctifies others {gratia gratis data), and then divide the former into 
habitual grace and actual grace, we would háve to say that actual grace comprises all the powers, 
movements, dispositions, and inspirations by which we are empowered to do or receive 
something on the supernatural level.. On Goďs part, grace is one; the divisions are made on the 
basis of man, and therefore theologians háve further divided actual grace into external or 
objective graces, which comprise any means at all by which Goďs loving presence can be 
encountered (e.g., the liturgy, sacramentals, sermons, good example), and internally operative 
graces that touch the human will effectively. (14) It should be evident, however, that actual grace 
must be interiorized, that is, it must internally influence our will and arouse our cooperation; 
otherwise it remains ineffective. 

The necessity for actual grace in ťhe Christian life lies in the fact that even the just person needs 
speciál help from God to avoid all sin and to persevere in grace. Following the teaching of St. 
Augustine, St. Thomas Aguinas maintains that a person in the statě of sanctifying grace still 
needs the further assistance of grace, first, "because no created thing can proceed to any action 
whatsoever except in virtue of the divine motion," and secondly, because of the actual statě of 
human nature, subject to igno rance and weakness of the flesh and further hampered by the 
wounds of originál sin. Moreover, even when endowed with sanctifying grace and the infused 
virtues, the just person needs the stimulus of actual grace to actuate those supernatural powers. 
Every act of an infused virtue reguires a previous movement of grace to set that virtue or gift in 
motion. This follows from the metaphysical principle that a thing in potency cannot be reduced 
to act except by something already in act and since we are dealing with the supernatural order 
and actions, an actuating grace is needed to initiate a supernatural act. 

Actual graces háve three functions: to dispose the soul for the reception of the infused habits of 
sanctifying grace and the virtues, to actuate these infused habits, and to prevent their loss. 

Actual grace disposes the soul for the reception of the infused habits either when the soul has 
nevěr possessed them or when the soul has lost them through mortal sin. In the latter čase actual 
grace will stimulate repentance for one's sins, the fear of punishment, and confidence in the 
divine mercy. 

Actual grace also activate the infused virtues, and if the individual is in the statě of 
sanctifying grace (for faith and hope can exist without grace), the actuation perfects the infused 
virtues and is meritorious of increase and growth in the supernatural life. 

The third function of actual grace is to prevent the loss of sanctifying grace and the infused 
virtues through mortal sin. It implies a strengthening in the face of temptations, an awareness of 
speciál dangers, mortification of the passions, and inspiration through good thoughts and holý 

It is evident, therefore, that actual grace is a priceless treasure. It gives efficacy to sanctifying 
grace and the infused virtues. It is the impulse of God that places our supernatural organism in 
operation and prevents us from forgetting that our soul, ih the statě of grace, is the temple of the 

The Infused Virtues 

The existence and necessity of the infused, supernatural virtues follow from the nature of 
sanctifying grace. Although grace is classified as an accident and not a substance, its role in the 
supernatural life of man is similar to that of the human soul. Therefore, sanctifying grace is not 
immediately operative but static, although it is the remote principle of all the activities of the 
person in grace. And since habitual grace is the principle of the supernatural life, it needs 
faculties or powers as the immediate principles of operation. 

If this were not the čase, we would be elevated to the supernatural order only as regards our soul 
but not as regards our operative powers. And although, absolutely speaking, God could elevate 
our faculties to the supernatural order by means of continual actual graces, this would produce a 
violence in the human psychological structure by reason of the tremendous disproportion 
between the purely natural faculty and the supernatural act to be effected. And such violence 

could not be reconciled with tne customary suavity of divine providence, which moves all things 
according to their natures. As St. Thomas points out: 

It is not fitting that God should provide less for those he loves, that they may acguire 
supematural good, than for creatures whom he loves that they may acguire natural good. 
Now he so provides for natural creatures that not merely does he move them to their 
natural acts, but he bestows on them certain forms and powers, which are the principles 
of acts, in order that they may of themselves be inclined to these movements, and thus the 
movements whereby they are moved by God . become natural and easy to creatures .... 
Much more, therefore, does he infuse into those he moves toward the acguisition of 
supernatural good, certain forms or supematural gualities whereby they may be moved by 
him sweetly and promptly to acguire eternal qood.(15) 

Nature ofthe Infused Virtues 

The infused virtues may be defined as operative habits infused by God into the faculties of the 
soul to dispose them to function according to the dictates of reason enlightened by faith. 

"Operative habits" is the generic element of the definition, common to all natural and 
supematural virtues. On the purely natural level an operative. hábit is a guality, difficult to 
remove, that disposes the subject to function with facility, promptness, and delight. It gives the 
subject facility for operation because every hábit is an increase of energy in relation to its 
corresponding action; it gives promptness because it constitutes, so to speak, a second nature in 
virtue of which the subjects guickly give themselves to action; and it causes delight in the 
operation because it produces an act that is prompt facile, and connatural. 

"Infused by God" is a radical difference between the infused and acguired virtues. The natural or 
acguired virtues are engendered in us by means of repeated acts; the only cause of the 
supematural or infused virtues is the divine infusion. Their purpose is to supernaturalize the 
faculties by elevating them to the order of grace and making them capable of performing 
supematural acts. Without them, or without the actual grace that substitutes for them (as in the 
čase of the sinner before justification), it would be impossible for us to perform a supematural 
act. St. Thomas says: "As from the essence of the soul flows its powers, which are the principles 
of deeds, so likewise the virtues, whereby the powers are moved to act, flow into the powers of 
the soul from grace." (161 

The principál difference between the acguired and infused virtues is by reason of the formal 
object. The infused virtues dispose the faculties to follow the dictate or command, not of reason 
alone, as do the acguired virtues, but of reason illumined by faith. The acguired moral virtues, 
however heroic and perfect, could nevěr attain the formal object of the infused virtues. With 
good reason does St. Thomas say that the principál difference between the acguired and infused 
virtues is by reason of their formal objects: 

The object of every virtue is a good considered as in that virtue's proper matter; thus the 
object of temperance is a good with respect to the pleasures connected with the 
concupiscence of touch. The formal aspect of this object is from reason, which fixes the 
mean in these concupiscences. Now it is evident that the mean that is appointed in such 
concupiscence according to the mle of human reason is seen under a different aspect 

from the mean that is fixed according to the divine rule. For instance, in tne consumption 
of food, the mean fixed by human reason is that food should not harm the health of the 
body nor hinder the use of reason; whereas according to the divine rule it behooves man 
to chastise his body and bring it under subjection (1 Cor. 9:27) by abstinence in food, 
drink, and the like. It is therefore evident that infused and acguired temperance differ in 
species; and the samé applies to the othervirtues. (17) 

Nor does it change matters to object that the act of infused temperance is identical with that of 
acguired temperance (námely, the moderation or control of the pleasures of touch) and that 
therefore there is no specific difference between them. St. Thomas admits the identity of the 
materiál object but insists on the specific and radical difference by reason of the formal object: 
"Both acguired and infused temperance moderate desires for pleasures of touch, but for different 
reasons as stated: wherefore their respective acts are not identical. " (18) 

But the infused virtues lack something of the perfect definition of habits because they do not give 
complete facility in operation, which is characteristic of true habits. They confer, it is true, an 
intrinsic inclination and promptness for good, but they do not give an extrinsic facility because 
they do not remove all the obstacles to good, as is evident in the čase of converted sinners who 
experience great difficulty in the performance of good because of their past acguired vices. St. 
Thomas distinguishes clearly the facility properte the two kinds of virtue: "Facility in 
performing the acts of virtue can proceed from two sources: from custom (and the infused virtue 
does not give this facility from its beginning) and from a strong inhesion as regards the object of 
the virtue, and this is found in the infused virtue at its very beginning. "(191 

The principál differences between the acguired and infused virtues can be summarized as 

By reason of their essence. The natural or acguired virtues are habits in the strict sense of 
the word. They do not give the power to act (for the faculty has that already), but they 
give facility in operation. The supematural or infused virtues give the power to act 
supernaturally (without them it would be impossible, apart from an actual grace), but they 
do not give facility in operation. 

By reason ofthe efficient cause. The natural virtues are acguired by our own proper acts; 
the supematural virtues are infused by God togetherwith sanctifying grace. 

By reason ofthe finál cause. The acguired, natural virtues enable us to conduct ourselves 
rightly in regard to human acts in accordance with our rational nature. The supematural 
virtues, on the other nand, give us the ability to conduct ourselves rightly in regard to our 
condition as adopted children of God, destined for etemal life, and to exercise the 
supematural acts. proper to the life of grace: 

By reason ofthe formal object. The natural virtues work for the good according to the 
dictate and light of natural reason; the supematural virtues work for the good according to 
the dictate and supematural light of faith. 

There are four properties that the infused virtues háve in common with the acguired natural 
virtues: ( 1 ) they consist in the mean or medium between the two extremes (except for the 
theological virtues, and even these do so by reason of the subject and mode); (2) in the statě of 

perfection they are united among ťhemselves by pmdence (and the infused virtues by charity 
also); (3) they are unequal in perfection or eminence; and (4) those that imply no imperfection 
perdure after this life as to their formal elemente. 

The characteristics or properties that are exclusive to the infused virtues are the following: 

1. They always accompany sanctifying grace and are infused together with grace. This 
doctrine is common among the theologians, although it is not exactly defined by the 

2. They are really distinct from sanctifying grace. It suffices to recall that grace is an 
entitative hábit infused into the essence of the soul, while the infused virtues are 
operative habite infused into the potencies, which are really distinct from the soul. 

3. They are specifically distinct from the corresponding acquired natural virtues. This has 
been previously demonstrated. 

4. They are supernatural in their essence but not in their mode of operation. 

5. They increase with sanctifying grace. St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: "Rather let us 
profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head" (Eph. 4:15). To 
the Philippians he says: "My prayer is that your love may more and more abound, both in 
understanding and wealth of experience" (Phil. 1:9). And he prays for the Romans "that 
through the power of the Holý Spirit you may háve hope in abundance" (Rom. 15:13). St. 
Peter writes: "Grow rather in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus 
Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18). 

6. They give us the intrinsic power for supernatural acte but not the extrinsic facility for 
those acte. This explains why the repentant habitual sinner experiences great difficulty in 
the practice of virtue. The difficulty can be overcome by perfecting the acquired virtues. 
The acquired virtues cannot assist the infused virtues intrinsically, of course, because a 
natural acquired hábit cannot perfect a supernatural infused virtue. However, it can help 
extrinsically by removing obstacles orby correcting disordered concupiscence. When the 
obstacles are removed, the infused virtues can begin to work promptly and delightfully. 

7. Except for faith and hope, they are all lost as a result of mortal sin. The reason is that 
the infused virtues are like properties flowing from sanctifying grace, and when grace is 
destroyed they also are destroyed. Only faith and hope can remain, and they in an 
unformed and imperfect state. (20) But if a person sins directly against these two virtues, 
they also are destroyed, and the soul is then deprived of every trace of the supernatural. 

8. They cannot dimimsh directly. This diminution could be caused only by venial sin or 
by the cessation of the acte of virtue. But they cannot be diminished by venial sin because 
this sin leaves intact the orientation to the supernatural end proper to the infused virtues. 
Nor can they be diminished by the cessation of the acte of the virtues, for these virtues 
were not acquired by human effort and hence do not depend on repeated acte. 
Nevertheless, the infused virtues may be diminished indirectly by venial sins so far as 
these sins stifle the fervor of charity, impede progress in virtue, and predispose to mortal 

Division of the Infused Virtues 

Some of the infused virtues ordain the faculties to the end or goal; others dispose them in regard 
to the means. The first group is the theological virtues; the second group is the moral virtues. The 
first corresponds, in the order of grace, with the principles of the natural order that direct us to 
our natural end; the second corresponds with the acguired virtues of the natural order that perfect 
us in regard to the means. Once again the close similarity and analogy between the natural and 
the supernatural orders are evident. 

Theological Virtues. The existence of the theological virtues seems to be clearly indicated in 
several texts of St. Paul including: 

"Goďs love has been poured into our hearts through the Holý Spirit who has been given to us" 
(Rom. 5:5); "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 
13:13). Moreover, the Church has stated in eguivalent formulas that we receive with sanctifying 
grace the gifts of faith, hope, charity, and the other virtues.(21) 

The existence of the theological virtues is postulated by the very nature of sanctifying grace. 
Since grace is not immediately operative, it reguires operative principles to grow and develop to 
perfection. Among these principles, some must refer to the supernatural end (theological virtues), 
and others must refer to the means that lead to that end (moral virtues). This argument takés its 
force principally from the divine economy and the workings of divine providence, made known 
to us through relevation. 

The theological virtues are operative principles by which we are ordained directly and 
immediately to God as our supernatural end. They háve God himself as their materiál object and 
one of his divine attributes as their formal object. Since they are strictly supernatural, only God 
can infuse them into the soul. 

There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. The reason for this number is that, by 
these three, immediate union with God is realized perfectly. Faith enables us to know God as 
First Truth; hope makes us desire him as the Supreme Good for us; charity unites us to him by 
the love of friendship, so far as he is infinite Goodness. There are no other aspects of union with 
God, for although the divine perfections are infinite, they cannot be attained by human acts 
except under the aspect of truth (by the intellect) and goodness (by the will). And only this latter 
admits of a twofold aspect, námely, good for us (hope) and goodness in itself (charity). 

That the theological virtues are distinct among themselves is something beyond doubt, since they 
can actually be separated. Faith can subsist without hope and charity (as in one who commits a 
mortal t,sin of despair without losing his faith); charity will perdure etemally in heaven, separate 
from faith and hope, which will háve disappeared (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8); and finally, in this life faith 
and hope can subsist without charity, as always happens when one commits a mortal sin not 
directly opposed to faith or hope. In these instances faith and hope remain in the soul in an 
unformed statě, since charity is the form of the virtues. 

In the order of generation or of origin, the first is to know (faith), then to desire (hope), and lastly 
to attain (charity). According to the order of perfection, charity is the most excellent of the 

ťheological virtues ("and the greatest of these is love" -- (1 Cor. 13:13) because it unites us most 
intimately with God and is the only one of the three that perdures in eternity. As to the other two 
virtues, faith is superior to hope because it bespeaks a relation with God in himself, whereas 
hope presents God as a good for us. Moreover, faith is the foundation of hope. On the other nand, 
hope is more dosely related to charity, and in this sense it is more perfect than faith. 

Moral Virtues. The existence of the infused moral virtues was denied by numerous ancient 
theologians, but today it is admitted by almost all theologians, in accordance with the doctrine of 
St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, and St. Thomas. The basis of this doctrine is to be found in 
Scripture. Thus, in the Book of Wisdom we are told that nothing is more useful in the life of a 
person than temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice: "If one loves justice, the fruits of her 
works are virtues; for she teaches moderation and prudence, justice and fortitude, and nothing in 
life is more useful for men than these" (Wis. 8:7). 

St. Peter, immediately after speaking of grace as a participation in the divine nature of God, 
states: "For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue 
with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and 
steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotheriy affection, and brotherly affection with 
love" (2 Pet. l;5-7). In these and other texts we háve the scriptural basis that was later elaborated 
by the Fathers and theologians to give us a body of doctrine that is perfectly organized and 
systematic. It is true that the Church has not expressly defined anything on this guestion, but 
today the doctrine on the existence of the infused moral virtues is generally accepted. 

The theological virtues are demanded by the very nature of grace so that it can be dynamically 
orientated to the supematural end; the moral virtues are demanded by the theological virtues 
because to be ordained to the end reguires a proper disposition to the means. Hence, the infused 
moral virtues are habits that dispose the faculties of man to follow the dictate of reason illumined 
by faith in relation to the means that lead to the supematural end. They do not háve God as their 
immediate object -- and in this they are distinguished from the theological virtues -- but they 
rightly ordain human acts to the supematural end, and in this way they are distinguished from the 
corresponding acguired natural virtues. 

The infused moral virtues regulate all the acts of man, including (at least on the part of prudence) 
the very acts of the theological virtues, in špite of the fact that these latter virtues are superior to 
the moral virtues. For although the theological virtues, considered in themselves, do not consist 
in the mean .or medium as do the moral virtues, one can nevertheless go to excess in the manner 
of operation, and it is that manner or mode that falls under the moral virtues. So it is that the 
moral virtues must be numerous, as St. Thomas points out: "For every act in which there is found 
a speciál aspect of goodness, man must be disposed by a speciál virtue. "(22) Accordingly, there 
will be as many moral virtues as there are species of good objects that serve as means leading to 
the supematural end. St. Thomas studies and discusses more than fifty moral virtues in the 
Summa theologiae, and perhaps it was not his intention to give a complete and exhaustive 

However, since ancient times it has been the custom to reduce the moral virtues to four principál 
ones, námely, pmdence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. They are expressly named in Sacred 
Scripture, as we háve already seen, and they are called the virtues most profitable for man in this 
life. Among the Fathers of the Church, St. Ambrose is apparently the first to call them cardinal 

virtues. (23) The Scholastic theologians unanimously subdivided the moral virtues oil the basis of 
these fourvirtues. 

St. Thomas maintains that these virtues can be called cardinal from two points of view: in a less 
proper sense, because they designate generál conditions or characteristics necessary for any 
virtue (every virtue calls for prudence, justice, fortitude, and moderation); more properly, 
because they pertain to speciál activities that reguire the control of virtue. Hence, the cardinal 
virtues are speciál virtues, not merely generál virtues that comprise all the other virtues. 

The principality of the cardinal virtues can be seen in the influence they exercise over their 
subordinated virtues. The latter virtues function in secondary related matters, leaving the 
principál matter to the corresponding cardinal virtue. Hence, each of the cardinal virtues can be 
divided into integrál parts, subjective parts, and potential parts. 

The integrál parts referto conditions or characteristics necessary for the perfect exercise of the 
virtue. Thus, patience and constancy are integrál parts of fortitude. 

The subjective parts are the various species of the principál virtue. Thus, sobriety and chastity 
are subjective parts of temperance. 

The potential parts are those annexed virtues that do not háve the full force and power of the 
principál virtue but are in some way related to it. Thus, the virtue of religion is annexed to justice 
because it has to do with rendering to God the cult that is due, although this can nevěr be doně 
perfectly, because one cannot achieve the eguality reguired for strict justice. 

But does the principality of the cardinal virtues make them superior to the secondary related 
virtues? Evidently not, for religion and penance are superior to justice, since their object is 
nobler. Humility is related to temperance, but is more excellent than temperance. 

Nevertheless, it is necessary to preserve the principality of the cardinal virtues as hinges of the 
others, because they comply more fully with their definitions as virtues. For example, 
commutative justice has more of the aspect of justice than religion or penance. An annexed or 
related virtue may be superior, by reason of its object, but the cardinal virtue is superior precisely 
as a cardinal virtue. 

We shall treat of particular virtues when we discuss the positive means for growth in grace and 
holiness (Chapter 9). Now, however, we shall investigate the last and crowning element of the 
supematural organism, námely, the gifts of the Holý Spirit. 

The Gifts of the Holý Spirit 

In generál usage, a gift signifies anything that one person gives to another out of liberality and 
with benevolence. We say "out of liberality" to signify that on the part of the giver a gift 
excludes any notion of debt or obligation. And we say "with benevolence" to signify the love 
that prompts the gift. Nevertheless, the notion of a gift does not exclude gratitude on the part of 
the one receiving the gift; even more, it sometimes demands the good use of the gift, depending 
on the nature of the gift and the intention of the giver, as when one gives something in order that 
the receiver be perfected by its use. Such are the gifts that God bestows on his creatures. 

The first great gift of God is the Holý Spirit who is the very love by which God loves himself 
and loves us: The Holý Spirit is, therefore, the first gift of God, not only because he is the 
substantial love in the intimate life of the Trinity, but also because he dwells in us through 
sanctifying grace. From this first gift proceed all other gifts of God. In the last analysis, whatever 
God gives to his creatures, both in the supematural and in the natural order, is a completely 
gratuitous effect of his liberal and infinite love. 

Existence of the Gifts 

The existence of the gifts of the Holý Spirit can be known to us only through revelation, since 
they are supematural realities that completely transcend the light of natural reason. St. Thomas 
begins with this supposition in the treatise on the gifts of the Holý Spirit in the Summa 
theologiae, and says that in the doctrine on the gifts we should follow the mode of speaking as 
found in Sacred Scripture, where they are revealed to us. (24) 

The classical text of Isaiah is usually guoted as the scriptural foundation for the doctrine on the 
gifts of the Holý Spirit: "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch 
shall grow out of his roots. And the Spiiit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom 
and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the 
Lord. Arid his delight shall be inthe fear of the Lord" (Isa. 11:1-3). 

This text is clearly messianic and properly refers only to the Messiah. Nevertheless, the Fathers 
of the Church and the Church herself háve extended the meaning to the faithful of Christ in 
virtue of the universal principle of the economy of grace that St. Paul enunciated: "For those 
whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he 
might be the first- bom among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). From this it is inferred that whatever 
perfection is found in Christ our Head, if it is communicable, is found also in the members 
united to him through grace. And it is evident that the gifts of the Holý Spirit pertain to 
communicable perfections, if we bear in mind the need we háve of them. Hence, we may rightly 
conclude that the seven spirits that the prophet saw descend and rest upon Christ are also the 
patrimony of all those who are united to him in charity. 

In addition to this text which the Fathers and the Church háve interpreted as a clear allusion to 
the gifts of the Holý Spirit authors are wont to cite other texts from the O Id and New 
Testaments. (25) However, the doctrine on the gifts of the Holý Spirit rests almost exclusively on 
the text from Isaiah. 

The teaching of the Church is explicit in the liturgy. In the Divine Office for Pentecost Sunday 
the hymn at evening prayer addresses the Holý Spirit as follows: "Tnou who art sevenfold in thy 
grace"; and in the prayer for the feast the Church asks God to "pour out the gifts of the Spirit on 
all mankind." In the Seguence for the Mass of Pentecost we sing: "On the faithful who adore 
and confess you, evermore in your sevenfold gifts descend." Lastly, in the admimstration of the 
sacrament of confirmation, the bishop extends his hands over those to be confirmed and prays: 

All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holý Spirit you 
freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holý Spirit 
upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and 
understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and 

reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. We ask this 
ťhrough Christ our Lord. Amen. 

The Catechism of the Council of Trent says that "from these gifts of the Holý Spirit .... we derive 
the rules for Christian living, and through them we are able to know whether the Holý Spirit 
dwells in us." (26) In his encyclical, Divinum IUud Munus, Pope Leo XIII recalls and reaffirms 
the traditional teaching of the Church conceming the gifts of the Holý Spirit: 

More than this, the just man, that is to say, he who lives the life of divine grace and acts 
by the fitting virtues as by means of faculties, has need of those seven gifts which are 
properly attributed to the Holý Spirit. By means of these gifts the soul is fumished and 
strengthened so as to be able to obey more easily and promptly his voice and impulse. 
Wherefore, these gifts are of such efficacy that they lead the just man to the highest 
degree of sanctity; and of such excellence that they continue to exist even in heaven, 
though in a more perfect way. By means of these gifts the soul is excited and encouraged 
to seek after and attain the evangelical beatitudes which, like the flowers that come forth 
in the springtime, are signs and harbingers of eternal beatitude. 

The number of the gifts presents two principál difficulties: (1) in Sacred Scripture the number 
seven is classically interpreted to signify a certain indefinite plenitude; (2) in the text of Isaiah 
only six distinct gifts are enumerated, for the gift of fear is mentioned twice. 

Some exegetes think that the text of Isaiah refers to an indefinite plenitude and therefore to more 
than seven gifts of the Holý Spirit. Theologians who accept this exegesis will likewise hold for 
an indefinite number of gifts. 

An indefinite plenitude may refer to a number that is left undetermined, or it may signify a 
definite number that contains all possible applications. It is this second sense that St. Thomas 
seems to accept for he says that "it is evident that these gifts extend to everything to which the 
moral and intellectual virtues also extend." (27) Conseguently, just as the seven infused virtues 
suffice for all the needs of the Christian life, but admit of a certain indefinite plenitude 
(especially the moral virtues, which can be divided into integrál, subjective, and potential parts), 
so also it would seem logical to say that the gifts are seven in number but admit of an indefinite 
plenitude because they perfect the infused virtues. Therefore, the indefinite plenitude can be 
understood as a determined number of gifts possessing multiple modalities. 

Various explanations háve been offered for the omission of the gift of piety in the text of Isaiah, 
but it is explicitly mentioned in the patristic tradition, in the official teachings of the Church, and 
in the unanimous teaching of theologians. To prescind from this weight of authority because of 
certain textual obscurities would seem to be unwarranted. Many things formally revealed in 
Sacred Scripture did not appear in their fullness except through the interpretation of the Fathers 
and the Magisterium of the Church. Whatever the text of Isaiah, St. Paul describes the reality 
when he writes to the Romans: "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Y ou did 
not receive a spirit of slavery leading you back into fear, but a spirit of adoption through which 
we cry out, A oba!' (that is, 'Father'). The Spirit himself gives witness with our spirit that we are 
childrenof God" (Rom. 8:14-16). 

The Nátur e ofthe Gifts 

St. Thomas studies the metaphysical nátuře of tne gifts of tne Holý Spirit by asking whether they 
are habits, (28) in order to determine the proximate genus in the essential definition of the gifts. 
The reply is in the affirmative, and theologians of all schools hold for the samé response, with 
few exceptions. 

Two objections háve been raised against the classification of the gifts as habits. Their solution 
will enable us to see more clearly the nátuře of the gifts. 

First for a person to be moved by the inspiration or instinct of the Holý Spirit an actual grace 
suffices. Therefore, the gifts are not habits but actual graces. 

To this we respond that insofar as the supematural movement proceeds from the Holý Spirit, it 
could be classified as an actual grace. On the part of the soul, however, a distinction is necessary. 
If the Holý Spirit acts upon the soul by bestowing some grace by way of an impulse (and such a 
grace can be offered even to sinners) or as a charism {gratia gratis data), these graces, as 
received, are also actual graces. But if the Holý Spiriťs action on the soul reguires a previous 
disposition so that the soul may be moved easily and promptly, then the soul needs habits that 
can be actuated in a supematural mode, and such are the gifts of the Holý Spirit. Moreover, it is 
commonly taught by theologians that the gifts are the perfection of the infused virtues; therefore, 
the gifts must, like the virtues, be operative habits. 

Secondly, it is objected that the Holý Spirit is an infinite agent of operation and needs no 
previous disposition on the part of the soul. Therefore the gifts are not habits. 

We reply that we háve already admitted that the Holý Spirit can act on a soul however and 
whenever he wishes. But the ordinary working of divine providence is smooth and connatural. 
Moreover, we are faced with the fact of the existence of the seven gifts of the Holý Spirit as 
infused habits, as we háve already seen. 

The Gifts and the Infused Virtues 

There are numerous characteristics common to both the gifts and the virtues. The principál ones 
are as follows: 

1. They are genericaHy the samé because both are operative habits. 

2. They háve the samé efficient cause, námely, God, and therefore they are both infused 
supematural habits. 

3. They háve the samé subject of inhesion: the human faculties. 

4. They háve the samé materiál object: all moral matter. 

5. They háve the samé finál cause: the supematural perfection of man, incipient in this world and 
consummated in the world to come. 

The differences between the gifts and the virtues are likewise numerous, but we can list them 
briefly in a series of statements. 

1. The motor cause of the infused virtues is human reason-reason illumined by faith and 

prompted by an actual grace. The gifts operáte under the impetus of the Holý Spirit who actuates 
ťhe gifts by direct contact. For that reason, the habits of the infused virtues can be ušed when we 
wish, presupposing an actual grace, but the gifts of the Holý Spirit operáte only when the Holý 
Spirit so desires. 

2. Because the infused virtues function under the direction and control of reason illumined by 
faith, their operations are restricted to a human mode of action. The gifts, on the other nand, háve 
the Holý Spirit as their motor cause; therefore they operáte in a divine or supematural mode. 

3. In the exercise of the infused virtues, the soul is fully active; its acts are produced in a human 
manner or mode, and the soul is fully conscious that it works when and how it pleases. The 
exercise of the gifts is entirely different. The Holý Spirit is the unigue motor cause of the gifts; 
the soul is receptive, though conscious and free. Ťhus we preserve freedom and merit under the 
operation of the gifts, but the soul merely seconds the divine motion, which belongs entirely to 
the Holý Spirit. 

Such are the principál differences between the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holý Spirit. 
The first one establishes the radical and specific differences between the virtues and the gifts; the 
others are logical conseguences of the first one. 

Necessityof 'the Gifts 

The gifts of the Holý Spirit are in no sense extraordinary or purely charismatic graces. They are 
given with sanctifying grace and form part of the supematural organism. Moreover, the gifts are 
necessary for the perfection of the infused virtues and also for salvation. 

First of all, if the gifts are said to perfect the virtues, this signifies that even the infused virtues 
are subjectto imperfection. 

Now there are five principál reasons or occasions of imperfection in any given hábit or virtue: 

1. When a hábit does not attain its complete materiál object. Such is the čase of students of 
theology who háve notyet studied certain tracts. They know something of theology, and they 
háve the hábit of theology, but incompletely and imperfectly. 

2. When the hábit lacks the intensity by which it should attain its object. For example, the student 
who has gone over an entire assignment, but superficially and carelessly. 

3. When the hábit is weakly rooted in the subject (e.g., through lack of sufficient use). 

These three imperfections can be found in the infused virtues but can be corrected by the virtues 
themselves. They do not need the influence of the gifts to be extended to the total object of the 
virtue, to increase in intensity, or to multiply their acts. 

4. When there is an intrinsic imperfection that pertains to the nature of the hábit itself. This 
occurs, for example, in the hábit of faith (of things not seen) and hope (of things not yet 
possessed). Neitherthe virtues themselves nor the gifts can correct these imperfections without 
destroying the virtues in guestion. 

5. Because of the disproportion between the hábit and the subject in which it resides. This is 

precisely the čase with the infused virtues. They are supematural habits, but the subject in which 
ťhey are received is the human faculties. Consequently, on being received into the soul, the 
infused virtues operáte in a human mode. They accommodate themselves to the psychological 
operations of man. This is why the infused virtues do not give facility in operation; that is 
provided by the acquired virtues. 

Now, if we possess imperfectly the habits of the infused virtues, the acts that proceed from them 
will also be imperfect unless some superior agent intervenes to perfect them. This is the purpose 
of the gifts of the Holý Spirit. Moved and regulated, not by human reason, as are the virtues, but 
by the Holý Spirit they bestow on the virtues, and especially the theological virtues, that divine 
atmosphere that they need in order to develop all their supematural virtuality . 

The theological virtues give us a participation in the supematural knowledge that G od has of 
himself (faith) and of his very love of himself (charity), and make us desire him as our supreme 
good (hope). These lofty objects, absolutely transcendent and divine, are necessarily constrained 
to a modality that is human so long as they remain under the mle and control of reason, even 
though enlightened by faith. They demand a regulation or rule that is also divine- that of the gifts. 

This argument is also valid for the infused moral virtues. Although they do not transcend the mle 
of reason as regards their immediate objects, they are directed to a supematural end and receive 
from charity their form and their life in that transcendent order. Therefore, to be perfect, they 
must receive a divine mode that will adapt and accommodate them to this orientation to the 
supematural end. Therefore, the gifts embrace all the matter of the infused virtues, both 
theological and moral. 

Secondly, the necessity of the gifts for salvation is a logical consequence of the need of the gifts 
for the perfection of the infused virtues. St. Thomas Aquinas gives the following theological 

The gifts are perfections by which a person is disposed to be amenable to the promptings 
of God. Hence in those matters where the promptings of reason do not suffice and there is 
need for the prompting of the Holý Spirit, there is consequently need for a gift. 

Now human reason is perfected by God in two ways: first, with its natural perfection, 
námely, the natural light of reason; secondly, with a supematural perfection, the 
theological virtues. And though the latter perfection is greater than the former, the former 
is possessed by us in a more perfect manner than the latter; for we háve the former in our 
complete possession, but we possess the latter imperfectly, because we know and love 
God imperfectly .... 

Accordingly, in matters subject to human reason and directed to our connatural end, we 
can work through the judgment of our reason; and if we receive help even in these things 
by way of speciál promptings from God, it will be out of Goďs superabundant goodness 
.... But in matters directed to the supematural end, to which reason moves insofar as it is 
imperfectly informed by the theological virtues, the movement of reason does not suffice; 
there must be present in addition the prompting and movement of the Holý Spirit. This is 
in accord with Romans 8:14: "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God"; and 
Psalm 143:10 states: "May your good Spirit guide me on level ground"; because no one 

can ever receive the inheritance of tne blessed unless he be led and moved thither by the 
Holý Spirit. Therefore, in order to accomplish this end, it is necessary to háve the gifts of 
the Holý Spirit(29) 

Some theologians háve considered this doctrine excessive, but that is because they confuse the 
question dejure with the question de facto. It is trne that many are saved without any operation 
of the gifts of the Holý Spirit but nevěr without the habits of the gifts. On the other nand, the 
actuation of the gifts is morally and sometimes physicalry necessary in order to preserve grace, 
and in this čase the actuation of the gifts would be necessary for salvation. The reason is the 
insufficiency of human reason, even enlightened by faith, to lead us to the supernatural end 
without obstructions. But there is still another reason, based on the corruption of human nature as 
a consequence of originál sin. The infused virtues do not reside in a sound nature but in a nature 
inclined to evil, and although the virtues háve sufficient power to conquer all temptations 
opposed to them, they cannot de facto overcome some of them without the help of the gifts, 
especially the violent temptations that arise unexpectedly. In those circumstances in which 
resistance or a fall is a decision of the moment, a person must act quickly, as if by a supernatural 
instinct, that is, under the influence and movement of the gifts of the Holý Spirit. 

The Gifts in Particular 

The difficulty in establishing an exact correlation between the virtues and the gifts is twofold. 
First, the virtues cover such a wide range of human acts that one virtue may relate to several 
gifts; for example, the virtue of faith relates to both understanding and knowledge. Second, some 
of the gifts, such as knowledge, counsel, and fear of the Lord, apply to more than one virtue; 
thus, fear of the Lord relates to the virtues of hope and temperance. We shall divide the gifts 
according to the faculties in which they reside and describe the function of each gift. Then, in 
treating of the virtues in particular (Chapters 10-11), we shall discuss briefly the gift or gifts that 
perfect each virtue. 

Two important points should be stressed before we discuss the gifts in particular. First, our 
participation in the divine life is not a transitory thing; rather, we are meant, through sanctifying 
grace, to share in a permanent manner in the very life and nature of God, beginning here in time 
and continuing through all eternity in glory . Moreover, our operations under grace are meant to 
become "connatural" to us and for that reason we receive the infused virtues and the gifts of the 
Holý Spirit as habits in the originál sense of the Latin word habitus. When we speak of the 
movement or instinctus of the Holý Spirit in relation to the gifts, we are referring to the actuation 
of the gifts, but the gifts as habits are our possession so long as we remain in grace. 

Second, the gifts of the Holý. Spirit, unlike the infused virtues, operáte in a supernatural mode or 
manner. The reason for this is that even our highest virtues, the theological virtues, operáte 
imperfectly in us. Precisely because they function under our direction, their mode of operation is 
always human and hence imperfect. The gifts of the Holý Spirit, therefore, are not simply 
emergency measures ušed by the Holý Spirit when we are in speciál difficulty, they are the 
means by which an individual attains the "divinization" that is the goal of sanctification. The 
supernatural modality of the gifts must be kept in mind especially when we discuss the gifts in 
relation to the virtues, for we may easily overlook the fact that though the names are sometimes 
identical or the materiál objects are the samé, the operation of the gifts is always a movement in 
which the Holý Spirit is the primary agent. 

Like the virtues, the gifts of the Holý Spirit can be divided according to the faculties through 
which they operáte and then specifically by their formal objects. The human faculties are 
classified in generál as eiťher cognitive, relating to knowledge, or appetitive, relating to orexis. 
Now, human knowledge may be either speculative or practical, while human orexis may involve 
the operations of the will or the emotions. And just as there are virtues to perfect the operations 
of all these faculties, so there are gifts of the Holý Spirit to perfect the virtues, as we háve 
already seen. Conseguently, we can divide the seven gifts of the Holý Spirit as follows: 

Cognitive faculties: 

speculative intellect: 

deeper insight into divine truths: Understanding 

proper judgment conceming truths of faith: Knowledge 

judgment according to divine norms: Wisdom 

practical intellect: 

decisions regarding human actions: Counsel. 

Appetitive powers: 

volitional appetite (the will): 

in relation to others: Piety 

sensitive appetites (the emotions): 

proper use of the irascible emotions: Fortitude 

proper use of pleasure emotions: Fear of the Lord 

Understanding: to give a, deeper insight and penetration of divine truths held by faith, not as a 
transitory enlightenment but as a permanent intuition. 

Knowledge: to judge rightly conceming the truths of faith in accordance with their proper causes 
and the principles of revealed truth. 

Wisdom: to judge and order all things in accordance with divine norms and with a,connaturality 
that flows from loving union with God. 

Counsel: to render the individual docile and receptive to the counsel of God regarding one's 
actions in view of sanctification and salvation. 

Piety: to give filial worship to God precisely as our Father and to relate with all people as 
children of the samé Father. 

Fortitude: to overcome difficulties or to endure pain and suffering with the strength and power 
infusedby God. 

Fear ofthe Lord: to avoid sin and attachment to created things out of reverence and love of God. 

Fruits of the Spirit and Beatitudes 

In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul provides a listing of the fruits of the flesh and the fruits of 
the spirit. The latter fruits are nine in number: lovejoy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, 
fid elity, meekness, and continence. (30) Theologians from the time of St. Augustine háve 
maintained that St. PauTs enumeration of the gifts is by no means a complete list, but only a 

sampling, as it .were, of the fruits of the Spirit. This is indicated by the fact that St. Paul lists 
fifteen fruits of the flesh and makes it clear that the list is not complete. 

The first thing to be noted about the fruits of the Spirit is that they are virtuous acts or works 
performed by those who are "guided by the Spirit" (Gal. 5:18). These works are in opposition to 
those that proceed from the flesh, as St. Paul states: "My point is thatyou should live in accord 
with the Spirit and you will not yield to the cravings of the flesh. The flesh lusts against the spirit 
and the spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed" (Gal. 5:16-17). Conseguently, the 
works of the spirit give testimony that one is being guided by and is obedient to the Holý Spirit. 

The second observation is that St. Paul demands of Christians that they be detached from the 
things of the flesh and of this world. He says, after enumerating the fruits of the spirit: "Those 
who belong to Christ Jesus háve crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live 
by the spirit letus follow the, spiriťs lead" (Gal. 5:24-25). 

Trůnily, though the fruits of the Spirit are highly perfected virtuous acts, they are called fruits 
precisely because of the spirituál delight that they produce. " lf these works are so perfect, 
abundant and permanent," says John Arintero, "that one is found to be in the statě of producing 
them with facility and perfection, then they are so joyful and delightful that they constitute, as it 
were, a přelude to eternal happiness. Although they may be performed at the.cost of annoyance 
and tribulation, yet they produce in us an ineffable joy to which nothing in this life can be 
compared. They are truly comparable to the joys of heaven." (31) 

Still more perfect than the fruits are the beatitudes. Like the fruits, they are acts that flow from 
the virtues and the gifts, but they are so perfect that they are more dosely related to the 
operations _ of the gifts than of the infused virtues. In a strict sense there is only one Gift and 
one Fruit - the Holý Spirit; and there is only one beatitude -the beatific vision in glory. But the 
beatitudes enunciated by Christ are a foretaste of the delights of heaven. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' saké, for theirs is the kingdom of 

heaven (Matt. 5:3-10). 

Each beatitude contains two parts; the first part refers to a meritorious act, and the second part 
refers to a reward. The reward applies primarily to the life to come, and yet there is likewise the 
promise of happiness even in this life. 

St. Thomas discusses the beatitudes by linking them with the three types of life in which we hope 
to find happiness: the life of pleasure, the active life, and the contemplative life. But the life of 
pleasure is falše happiness; therefore the first three beatitudes refer to the detachment reguired 
from worldly pleasures and satisfactions if one is to receive the reward that is promised. The 
active life, on the other hand, is a disposition for the happiness to come, since it consists in the 

practice of virtue; therefore the fourth and fifth beatitudes refer to the active life, and tne sixth 
and seventh beatitudes refer to the effects of the active life that are proximate dispositions for the 
contemplative life. The eighth beatitude, according to St. Thomas, is a manifestation and 
confirmation of all those that precede it. (32) 

The beatitudes provide a summary of the magnificent ideals proposed for Christian living. They 
also provide a contrast between the life of those attached to the things of this world and the life 
of those who follow Christ. This is clearly manifested in Luke 6:17-26, where we are told that 
Jesus came down from the mountain to a stretch of level ground and, fixing his gáze on his 
disciples amid the crowd, he said: 

Blessed are you poor, foryours is the kingdom of God. 

Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. 

Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. 

Blessed are you when men hatě you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast 

out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for 

joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 

But woe to you that are rich, for you háve received your consolation. 

Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. 

Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 

Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the falše prophets. 


Denz.-Schón. 902. 

Cf. Summa theologiae, I-II, g. 113, a. 9, ad 2. 

Denz.-Schón. 1561: "If anyone say that men are justified only by the imputation of the justice 
of Christ, or simply by the remission of sins, thus excluding the grace and charity that are 
infused in hearts by the Holý Spirit and inhere in them, or that the grace by which we are 
justified is simply the favor or benevolence of God, let him be anathema." 

Summa theologiae, I-II, g. 112, a. 1. 

Ibid., g. 110, a. 2, ad 2. 

Denz.-Schón. 1561. 

Summa theologiae, III, g. 62, a. 1. 

Ibid., II-II, g. 24, a. 3, ad 2. 

Injoan., tr. 21, n. 3 (M.L. 35:1565). 

Denz.-Schón. 1528. 

Summa theologiae, I, g. 43, a. 3, corpus and ad 1. 

St. John of the Cross, The Living Fláme ofLove, trans. E. Allison Peers (Westminster, Md.: 
Newman. 1957), stanza2. 

St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, Chap. 1, trans. E. Allison Peers (New York: Sheed 
& Ward, 1946). 

In relation to the act of the will, which is the first principle of human acts, actual graces are 
divided into the following types: operating grace, the movement or prompting from God; 
cooperating grace, movement of the soul in conjunction with Goďs assistance; prevenient 
grace, offered prior to the response of the will; concomitant grace, accompanies the 
human action in response to prevenient grace; sufficient grace, offered in view of a work 
or goal; efficacious grace, producing its effect in accomplishing the act or attaining the 

Summa theologiae, I-II, g. 110, a. 2. 

Má., g. 110, a. 4, ad 1. 

Má., g. 63, a. 4. 

Má., ad 2. 

St. Thomas Aguinas, In IV Sent, dist. 14, g. 2, a. 2, ad 5; De virtutibus, a. 10, ad 15. 

Cf. Denz.-Schón. 1578; 2457; Summa theologiae, I-II, g. 1, a. 4. 

Má., 1528; 1529; 1561. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, g. 109, a. 2. 

Expositio inLucam (M.L., 15:1738). 

Summa theologiae, I-II, g. 68, a. 1. 

Old Testament texts: Gen. 41:38; Exod. 31:3; Num. 24:2; Deut. 34:9; Judg. 6:34; Ps. 31:8; 
32:9; 118:120; 142:10; Wis. 7:28; 9:17; 10:10; Sir. 15:5; Isa. 11:2; 6:1; Micah3:8. New 
Testament texts: Luke 12:12; 24:25; John 3:8; 14:17 and 26; Acts 2:2; Rom. 8:14 and 26; 
1 Cor. 2:10; 12:18; Rev. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6. 

See Catechism ofthe Council ofTrent, trans. J. Donovan (Baltimore: J. Myres, 1833), Part I, 
art. 8. 

Summa theologiae, I-II, g. 68, a. 4. 

Má., a. 3. 

Má., a. 2. 

See Gal. 5:22-23. In the Greek text of Scripture only nine fmits of the Spirit are listed. By the 
time of St. Thomas Aguinas there were twelve fruits named in the Clementine Vulgátě 
version, due perhaps to errors made by the seribes. 

JohnG. Arintero, The Mystical Evolution, trans. Jordán Aumann(St. Louis: B. Herder, 
1949), Vol. I, pp. 275-76. 

Summa theologiae, I-II, q. 69, a. 3, corpus and ad 5. 

Perfection of the Christian Life 

The word perfection signifies the statě or condition of being completed or finished, without any 
excess or defect. In its Latin origin the word connotes the term of a process or activity {per 
factum), but in philosophy and theology the word has a wider application. The emphasis is rather 
on the aspect of totality or plenitude, and consequently a thing is said to be perfect when it has all 
the fullness of being that is due to it by reason of its essence or nature. 

But anything is perfect to the extent that it is in act, and since existence is the "actuality of all 
acts," the concept of perfection is eminently existential. It applies to all things that exist and is 
therefore a transcendental concept. As such, it applies to beings that differ in species or degree, 
and therefore it is also an analogous term. 

We need not discuss further distinctions of analogy, but we should notě that in the existential 
order all analogous perfections are either dependent on the samé source or are ordained to the 
samé goal, however much they differ in other respects. Thus, all the perfection, of the created 
universe derive from God as their first cause; all moraHy good human acts are perfect in the 
measure that they are directed to God as ultimate end. 

Although the term perfection, taken in the abstract, is an analogous and transcendental concept, 
as soon as we speak of a particular kind or type of perfection, such as perfection of the Christian 
life, we are dealing with a concept that is restricted to that particular type of perfection. But the 
term is still an analogous one, and therefore if we are to define Christian perfection we must 
review the types of perfection that apply to the Christian life. 

The first distinction regarding perfection in generál is that between absolute perfection and 
relative perfection. Absolute perfection is attributed to the being that has the plenitude of 
perfection to such an extent that it not only has the fullness of being proper to itself, but that it 
also possesses in an eminent degree all possible perfections. Such perfection is found only in 
God, who is for that reason called Pure Act by the philosophers and infinitely perfect by the 

Relative perfection, as its name indicates, is attributed to finite beings, and since they were 
created by God, their perfections derive from the Primary Analogate who is God. Thus, we read 
in Genesis that God created us in his own image (Gen. 1:27). 

Relative perfection has a threefold meaning, as St. Thomas explains in his commentary on 
Aristotle's Metaphysics, Book V, Chapter 18. It signifies, first, that a being lacks nothing due to 
its nature; second, that there is neither excess nor defect in its faculties of operation; and third, 
that it has attained its proper goal or end. Later, in the Summa theologiae, St. Thomas classifies 
this threefold perfection as essential perfection {perfectio in esse), operative perfection {perfectio 
in operaúone), and finál perfection {perfectio in assecutione finis). {1} 

Notě that operative perf ection is not always a middle statě between essential perf ection and finál 
perf ection. Sometimes the perf ection consists in an operation, and sometimes it consists in the 
attainment of an extrinsic goal. In the first čase the operation is the goal; for example, the 
perf ection of a violinist is to play the violin. In the second čase the perf ection consists in 
reaching a goal, as when a student receives a diploma. Both types of perfection may be found in 
one and the samé person. Thus our formal beatitude consists in the operative perfection of the 
beatific vision; our objective beatitude consists in the finál perfection of union with God in glory. 
In this respect beatitude and perfection are synonymous terms. 

But we háve not yet finished with the divisions of perfection. It can also be divided into primary 
perfection (simpliciter) and secondary perfection (secundum quid). The former signifies that 
which belongs to the very nature of a thing and, indeed, constitutes the very basis and source of 
its perfection. The latter perfection applies to the related but integrál parts of the perfection of a 
thing; for example, docility is a secondary but integrál perfection of prudence. Lastly we can 
distinguish between that which constitutes perfection essentially (per se) and that which 
constitutes perfection instrumentally, depending upon whether the element in guestion is 
necessary for perfection or serveš as a means to foster perfection. 

The Nátuře of Christian Perfection 

We are now in a position to apply the various members of the division of perfection to Christian 
perfection. It is common teaching that essential or substantial perfection consists in sanctifying 
grace, since sanctifying grace is the very soul of the supernatural life. Operative perfection, as 
we know from Scripture and theology, consists in charity, either in its elicited act or as 
imperating the other virtues. Finál perfection consists in the most intimate union with God 
through charity that is possible in this life, usually described as the mystical marriage or 
transforming union. Secondary perfection comprises the elicited acts of the virtues other than 
charity, while instrumental perfection is attributed to the evangelical counsels. Having seen the 
division of Christian perfection, we shall examine each element theologically. 

Charity -- The Primary Element in Perfection 

Christian perfection does not consist exclusively in the perfection of charity, but charity is its 
principál element, the most essential and characteristic element. In this sense the measure of 
charity is the measure of supernatural perfection so that one who has attained the perfection of 
the love of God and of neighbor can be called perfect in the truest sense of the word. This 
doctrine can be verified by testimony from Scripture, the Magisterium, and theology. 

From Sacred Scripture. Christ himself tells us that upon the love of God and of neighbor 
depends the whole law and the prophets (Matt. 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31). The texts from St. 
Paul are explicit and abundant: "Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together 
and makes them perfect" (Col. 3:14); "Love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10); "There 
are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love" (1 
Cor. 13:13). Even faith, according to St. Paul, receives its value from charity: "In Christ Jesus 
neither circumcision nor the lack of it counts for anything; only faith, which expresses itself 
through love" (Gal. 5:6). Not even the charisms are of any value without charity (1 Cor. 13:1-3.). 

From the Magisterium of the Church. The samé doctrine has been amply commented upon 

and developed by tne Fathers of tne Church and has been sanctioned by tne Magisterium. Pope 
John XXII stated that "the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in 
charity, which is called the bond of perfection by the Apostle (Col. 3:14) and which unites or 
joins man in some way to his end." (2) 

Theological Argument. The proof given by St. Thomas is that the perfection of a being consists 
in the attainment of its ultimate end, beyond which there is nothing more to be desired. But it is 
charity that unites us with God, the ultimate end of man. Therefore, Christian perfection consists 
especially in charity. (3) 

The fundamental reason is that charity alone unites us entirely with God as the ultimate 
supematural end. The other virtues prepare or initiate that union, but they cannot complete it. 
The moral virtues bring us to God only indirectly, by establishing the proper order in the means 
that lead to God. Faith and hope unitě us with God, since they are theological virtues, but they do 
not unitě us with him as the ultimate end or as the Supreme Good infinitely lovable in himself 
-the perfect motive of charity. Charity relates to God and unites us to him as our ultimate end; 
faith and hope relate to God and unitě us to him as a principle. Faith gives us a knowledge of 
God that is necessarily obscure and imperfect, and hope is also radically imperfect, but charity 
unites us with God even in this life. 

Charity establishes the mutual love of friendship between God and ourselves. For that reason, 
charity is inseparable from grace, while faith and hope are compatible even with mortal sin 
(unformed faith and hope). Beyond all doubt, therefore, charity constitutes the very essence of 
Christian perfection; it is the form and director of all the other virtues. 

Charity and the Virtues 

However, it is necessary to understand this doctrine correctly. From the fact that Christian 
perfection consists especially in charity, it does not follow that the role of the other virtues is 
purely accidental, or that they are not essential to Christian perfection. The moral virtues -- and 
with greater reason faith and hope -- háve their proper excellency even when considered in 
themselves, independently of charity. For although all the acts of the Christian life can and 
should be imperated by charity, many of them are acts elicited by the other infused virtues. As a 
matter of fact, when the Church wishes to judge the sanctity of a servant of God in view of 
possible beatification, she does not consider charity only but also the exercise of other virtues to 
a heroic degree. This means that the infused virtues are integrál parts of Christian perfection. 

Christian perfection must be considered as a moral whole, integrated by the conjunction of those 
conditions that perfect the life of the Christian. It connotes a plenitude that presupposes the 
perfect rectification of our entire moral life. But this total rectification is not achieved by charity 
alone, which refers only to the end; it also involves the operations of the infused moral virtues 
that regulate the proper use of the means to the end. Therefore the infused moral virtues pertain 
to the essence of Christian perfection considered in an integrál manner. 

Nevertheless, one must not lose sight of the fact that the acts of the other infused virtues pertain 
to the essence of Christian perfection so far as they are imperated by charity, which is the form 
of all the other virtues. The proper function of charity as the form of all the virtues is to direct 
and ordain the acts of all the virtues effectively to the ultimate supernatural end, even those of 

faith and hope. 

Growth in Christian Perfection 

Christian perfection increases in the measure that charity produces its own elicited act more 
intensively and imperates the acts ofthe other virtues in a manner that is more intense, actual 
and universal. This statement constitutes a basic and crucial principle for understanding the role 
of charity in Christian perfection. First Christian perfection increases in the measure that charity 
produces its proper elicited act more intensively. If Christian perfection consists primarily in the 
perfection of charity, it follows that in the measure that this virtue produces its elicited act with 
greater intensity, the perfection of the Christian life is likewise intensified. Hence, the degree of 
sanctity coincides with the degree of love. The greater the love of God and neighbor, the greater 
the holiness of the individual. 

Secondly, as the form of all the virtues, charity should imperate and direct the acts of all the 
virtues to the ultimate supematural end. In the measure that it does so, the influence of charity on 
the other infused virtues will be more intense, actual, and universal. It will be more intense 
because charity imparts its fervorto them. The influence of charity will be more actual because 
the acts elicited by those virtues will be motivated by charity. There is a great difference between 
an act performed simply for the specific motive of a given virtue, such as humility, and that samé 
act performed for the love of God, which is the perfect motive of charity. Lastly, the influence of 
charity will be more universal because to the extent that charity imperates more and more acts of 
more and more virtues, the integrál perfection of the Christian life will likewise be extended and 

Love ofGod and Neighbor 

The perfection ofthe Christian life is constituted by the perfection ofthe double act of charity -- 
primarily in relation to God and secondarily in relation to one's neighbor. There is only one 
virtue and one infused hábit of charity, by which we love God for himself and our neighbor and 
ourselves for God. All the acts that proceed from charity are specified by the samé object, 
námely, the infinite goodness of God. 

Whether we love God directly in himself or whether we love our neighbor or ourselves directly, 
if it is a guestion of the love that is charity, the formal motive of this love is always the samé: the 
infinite goodness of God. There cannot be any true charity for our neighbor or ourselves if it 
does not proceed from the supematural motive of the love of God, and it is necessary to 
distinguish this formal act of charity from any love of neighbor that proceeds from a purely 
natural inclination. 

An increase of the infused hábit of charity will provide a greater capacity in relation to the 
double act of charity. Indeed, the capacity to love God is not increased in the soul without a 
corresponding increase in the capacity to love one's neighbor. This truth constitutes the centrál 
argument of the first Epistle of St. John, in which he explains the intimate connection and 
inseparability of love of God and love of neighbor. 

Nevertheless, in the exercise of love there is a priority that is demanded by the very nature of 
things. The perfection of charity consists primarily in the love of God, infinitely lovable in 
himself; secondarily it consists in the love of neighbor and ourselves for God. And even among 

ourselves and our neighbors it is necessary to establish a priority. The reason is that God is loved 
as the principle of the good on which the love of charity is based; man is loved with a love of 
charity so far as he shares in that supematural good. One must therefore first of all love God ; 
who is the source of that good, and secondly oneself, who shares directly in that good, and lastly 
one's neighbor, who is a companion in the sharing of that good.(4) 

Affective and Effective Charity 

Christian perfection consists primarily in affective charity and secondarily in effective charity. 
This is the way in which St. Francis de Sales explains it: 

There are two principál exercises of our love of God: one affective and the other effective 
or active, as St. Bernard says. By the first we are attached to God and to everything that 
pleases him; by the second we serve God and we do whatever he commands. The former 
unites us to the goodness of God; the latter makes us do the will of God. The one fills us 
with complacence, benevolence, aspirations, desires, longings, and spirituál ardors, so 
that our spirit is submerged in God and blended with him. The other places in us the firm 
resolution, the decided intention, and the unswerving obedience by which we fulfill the 
mandates of his divine will and by which we suffer, accept, approve, and embrace 
whatever comes from his divine will. The one makes us také pleasure in God; the other 
makes us please God.(5) 

Since Christian perfection will be greater in the measure that charity produces its elicited act 
more intensively and imperates the acts of the other virtues in a more intense, actual, and 
universal manner, it is evident that perfection depends primarily on affective charity and only 
secondarily on effective charity. The reasons are as follows: 

1. Unless charity informs the soul, the intemal or extemal acts of any acguired natural virtue, 
however perfect they may be in themselves, háve no supernatural value, nor are they of any avail 
in relation to etemal life. 

2. The acts of an infused supematural virtue that are motivated by a charity that is weak and 
remiss háve a meritorious value that is egually weak and remiss, however difficult the acts may 
be in themselves. The difficulty of an act does not of itself add any essential merit to the act. 
Merit depends on the degree of charity with which the act is performed. If the difficulty causes 
an increase of merit, it is because of the greater impulse of charity that is needed to perform the 

3. On the other nand, the acts of an infused virtue, however easy and simple in themselves, háve 
great meritorious value if performed with a more intense movement of charity. As St. Teresa 
says: "The Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything we do as at the love with 
which we do it."(7) 

4. The samé conclusion follows from the fact that Christian perfection consists especially in the 
elicited act of charity (affective charity) and only integrally in the acts of the other virtues 
imperated by charity (effective charity). 

Nevertheless, the perfection of charity should be manifested by the practice of effective charity; 
that is, in the exercise of the Christian virtues for the love of God. Affective love, although more 

excellent in itself, may be subject to illusion or falsification. It is easy to telí God that we love 
him with all our heart, that we desire to be holý, and then fail to observe some precept. The 
genuineness of our love of God is much less suspect when it leads to the fulfillment of the duties 
of our statě in life, in špite of obstacles and temptations. 

Christ himself teaches us that a tree is known by its fruits (Matt.7: 15-20) and that they will not 
enter the kingdom of heaven who merely say, "Lord, Lord/ 1 but only they who do the will of his 
heavenly Father (Matt. 7:21). The samé doctrine is found in Chrisťs teaching on the last 
judgment (Matt. 25:31-46). 

Charity and the Gift ofWisdom 

In its complete expansion and development, charity is perfected by the gift of wisdom. This is a 
simple application of the generál doctrine of the necessity of the gifts for the perfection of the 
infused virtues. Without the influence of the gifts, the infused virtues operáte :according to the 
rules of natural reason illumined by faith, according to a human mode. So long as the gifts of the 
Holý Spirit do not impart to the virtues the divine mode that should be characteristic of them and 
that they lack of themselves, it is impossible that the infused virtues should attain their perfect 
expansion and development. 

Although this is trne of all the infused virtues, it is especially trne of charity. Being the most 
excellent of all the virtues, charity demands by a kind of inner necessity the divine atmosphere of 
the gifts of the Holý Spirit in order to give all that it is capable of giving. And in order that 
charity háve a divine modality, the hábit itself must be converted into a passive subject that 
receives without resistance the influence of the divine impetus that proceeds from the Holý 

Perfection and the Mystical State 

It follows from this that the mystical statě is necessary for Christian perfection, since the 
mystical statě consists precisely in the actuation and predominance of the gifts of the Holý Spirit. 
There is not and cannot be any perfection or sanctity that is purely ascetical and based on the 
human mode of the infused virtues. The full perfection of the Christian life is attained in the 
mystical statě (see Chapter6). 

Moreover, the perfection of the Christian life reguires the passive purgations. This guestion will 
also be treated later (see Chapter 8). For the time being, it suffices to guote the teaching of St. 
John of the Cross, the doctor of the dark nights of the soul: "However much the beginner in 
mortification exercises himself in controlling his actions and passions, he cannot ever control 
them perfectly until God mortifies the soul passively through the purification of the niqht."(8) 

The Increase of Charity 

Charity can increase indefinitely in man as a wayfarer; consequently, Christian perfection has no 
definite terminus in this life. St. Thomas Aquinas states that there are three ways in which the 
increase of any form may háve a limit or terminus. The first is on the part of the form itself, 
when it has a limited capacity beyond which it cannot advance without the destruction of the 
form itself. The second is by reason of the agent, when it does not háve sufficient power to 
continue increasing the form in the subject. And the third is on the part of the subject, when it is 

not susceptible of a greater perfection.Q) 

But no ne of these three manners of limitation can be attributed to charity in this life. As a 
participation in divine love and therefore a virtue supernatural in substance, the nature or form of 
charity is not limited. The agent or efficient cause of charity is God, and there is no limit to 
charity in that respect. Lastly, the human will, which is the subject of charity, has an unlimited 
obediential potency, and hence in the measure that charity increases, the capacity of the will for a 
further increase is likewise enlarged. Therefore, there is no terminus to the development of 
charity in this life, and it can for that reason increase indefinitely. 

It will be guite different in heaven. There the soul will háve reached its goal, and at the moment 
of its entrance into heaven its degree of charity will be permanently fixed according to the 
measure of the intensity it has attained up to the last moment on earth. It is trne that even in 
heaven charity could increase indefinitely as regards the three points we háve just enumerated, 
since in heaven the nature of charity does not change, the power of God is not diminished, nor is 
the obediential potency of the creature limited. But we know that charity will not increase in 
heaven because it will háve been fixed in its degree by the immutable will of God and because 
the time of meriting will háve passed. 

Perfection and the Precepts and Counsels 

Christian perfection consists essentially in the precepts and secondarily or instrumentally in the 
counsels. St. Thomas invokes the authority of Sacred Scripture to prove this doctrine. (lO) We are 
told in Deuteronomy (6:5): "Y ou shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all 
your soul, and with all your strength." Again in Leviticus (19:18) it is stated: "Y ou shall love 
your neighbor as yourself." On these two precepts, says the Lord, depend all the law and the 
prophets (Matt. 22:40). Therefore, the perfection of charity, in which Christian perfection 
consists, is demanded of us by precept. 

Moreover, Christian perfection consists principally in the love of God and secondarily in the love 
of neighbor. But both the love of God and the love of neighbor constitute the first and the 
greatest of all the commandments. .This is confirmed by the authority of Christ, who stated that 
love of God is the first and greatest commandment, and love of neighbor is placed on a similar 
level (Matt. 22:37-39). 

St. Thomas then shows that perfection consists secondarily and instrumentally in the counsels. 
All of them are ordained to charity, as are the precepts, but in a different way. The precepts 
legislate against the things contrary to charity; the counsels remove the obstacles that impede the 
facile exercise of charity, although these things are not incompatible with charity. It is evident, 
therefore, that the counsels do not constitute Christian perfection, but are only instruments for 
attaining Christian perfection. 

The counsels do not oblige all Christians, but all Christians ought to sanctify themselves by the 
conscientious observance of the precepts in the spirit of the counsels. The effective practice of the 
evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, and obedience) is not universally obligatory, but the 
affective practice or spirit of the counsels obliges everyone who desires to be perfect. The first is 
usually verified by public vows (as in the consecrated life); the second affects all Christians in a 
manner compatible with their statě in life. 

It should also be noted, that, in addition to the three evangelical counsels, there are many other 
particular or private counsels that proceed from interior inspirations of the Holý Spirit and 
pertain to works of supererogation. Such counsels represent a particular invitation or a concrete 
manifestation of the will of God for an individual person, and as such they cannot be ignored 
without committing an act of infidelity to grace, which is difficult to reconcile with the concept 
of Christian perfection. 

The Universal Call to Perfection 

If the striving for Christian perfection is of precept, it follows that it obliges all Christians. It is 
not restricted to priests and religious, but is rooted in the fundamental obligations assumed at 
baptism in the commitment to God. 

All Christians are obliged, and not simply "invited/ 1 although this obligation is to aspire or 
stave. By this we mean that one is not obliged to be already perfect at the beginning of the 
Christian life or even at any determined moment in that life, but simply to aspire positively to 
Christian perfection as an end that one seriously proposes to reach. Moreover, the perfection to 
which we refer is not simply the substantial perfection of the statě of grace but the eminent 
development of the entire supernatural organism of sanctifying grace, the infused virtues and the 
gifts of the Holý Spirit. 

Let us recall the words of Christ: "Y ou therefore are to be perfect even as your heavenly Father 
is perfect". (Matt. 5:48). These words are addressed to all who believe in Christ. The apostles 
insisted on the commandment of the divine Master. St. Paul stated that God has chosen us in 
Christ that we should "be holý and blameless in his sight" (Eph. 1:4). He says likewise: "It is 
Goďs will thatyou grow in holiness" (1 Thess. 4:3). 

The Church has proclaimed this teaching through the documents of Vatican Council II: 

The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of 
which he is the author and maker) to each and every one of his disciples without 
distinction: "You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 
5:48) .... The followers of Christ called by God not in virtue of their works but by his 
design and grace, and justified in the Lord Jesus, háve been made sons of God in the 
baptism of faith and partakers of the divine nature, and so are truly sanctified. They must 
therefore hold on to and perfect in their lives that sanctification which they háve received 
from God .... 

It is therefore guite clear that all Christians in any statě or walk of life are called to the 
fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love. (ll) 

Love is commanded of us in all its extension: "with all your heart, and with all your soul and 
with all your strength" (Deut 6:5; cf. Matt. 22:37). Of all the spirituál elements in the Christian 
life, charity alone has the role of end or goal. Not only is it the goal of all the other precepts, but 
it is also a goal for us because by charity we are united to God, our ultimate end. 

An important conclusion follows from the foregoing doctrine. The perfection of charity is 
commanded as an end or goal to which one must tend and not as something to be achieved at 
once. Conseguently, those who háve notyet reached perfection do not transgress the precept so 

long as they possess grace and charity and do not deliberately refuse to advance in holiness. The 
doctrine can be summarized in the following statements: 

1. All Christians are commanded to love God above all ťhings and, consequently, to tend to 
perfection by using the means offered them in their statě of life. 

2. In addition to ťhis generál obligation, religious or members of a secular institute contract a 
speciál obligation by reason of their public vow, which obliges them to strive for perfection by 
the practice of the evangelical counsels in the manner determined by their constitutions. 

3. The diocesan priest, although not in the canonical "statě of perfection/ 1 is obliged, in virtue of 
his priestly ordination and his ministerial office, to tend to perfection and to surpass in perfection 
("the nonclerical orlay reliqious. (12) 

Speciál Questions 

The perfection of the Christian life raises some "speciál" problems, such as choosing the better 
good, imperfection and venial sin, grades of perfection, the possibility of attaining perfection, 
and Goďs will and Christian perfection. 

Choosing the Better Good 

A person would transgress the precept of charity if, satisfied with possessing charity in its lowest 
degree, he would disdain the higher grades and the total perfection of charity .(13) "If one does 
not wish to love God more than he [already] loves God, he does not fulfill the precept of 
charity. "(141 Is it then necessary to aspire to the greater good and to practice it in reality? St. 
Thomas replies: 

We are not obliged to the greater good on the level of action, but we are obliged to it on the level 
of love. The reason is simple. Every rule of action demands a determined and precise materiál. 
But if one were obliged to practice the greater good, he would be obliged to that which is 
undetermined. Therefore, as regards extemal actions, since we cannot be obliged to that which is 
undetermined, neither are we obliged to the greater good in all its extension. (15) 

Does this mean that the aspiration to the more perfect is limited to a simple affective tendency on 
the level of love, without ever reaching the energetic and definitivě "I will"? Let us turn again to 
the Angelic Doctor: "The will is not perfect unless it be such that, given the opportunity, it 
realizes the operation. But if this proves impossible, as long as the will is so perfected as to 
realize the operation if it could, the lack of perfection to be derived from the extemal action is 
simply involuntary." (16) 

This principle gives us the key to the solution of the problém. There are many things we could do 
each day that are better than the things we actually do. But they are so numerous and indefinite 
that we cannot be obliged to do them. As a result, we frequently choose to do that which is 
objectively a less perfect act. However, the less good or less perfect act is still a good act. 

On the other nand, if something presents itself to us as a particular better good, and, taking into 
account all the circumstances, as a concrete good to be chosen here and now, we are obliged to 
practice that good. Not to do so would be to resist grace, and to resist grace without a reasonable 

cause constitutes a fault, however light. Therefore, ťhe obligation to choose tne better good 
applies only when a particular good is presented here and now, and in view of all the 
circumstances one considers that the choice of that good is morally imperative. 

Imperfection and Venial Sin 

There are two theological opinions on moral imperfections. The first opinion holds that all 
positive imperfections are tme venial sins. The second opinion maintains that venial sin and 
imperfection (even positive imperfection) are distinct and that there are imperfections that are 
not venial sins. 

Imperfection is the omission of a good act that is not of obligation or the remiss performance of 
an act that is, with less perfection than that of which one is capable. For example, if he possesses 
the hábit of charity with an intensity of sixty degrees, but performs an act of only thirty degrees 
of intensity, he has performed a remiss act and has on that account committed an imperfection. 
But it does not follow necessarily that the individual has committed a venial sin. Venial sin is 
evil, but the act performed is good, even though it is less good than it could háve been. In this 
čase we háve to look for another element that would make the act a venial sin, for example, 
contempt, sinful sloth, or deliberate resistance to grace. 

Moreover, we should not demand perfection in each and every human action, but should také 
into account the weakness of our human condition. The most that can be demanded is that 
individuals do the best they can under the circumstances and then leave the rest to God. 

Cardinal Mercier has written as follows on the distinction between mortal sin, venial sin, and 

Mortal sin is the repudiation of the ultimate end. Venial sin is the fault of a will that does 
not depart completely from the end but deviates from it. Imperfections are not opposed to 
the end nor do they depart from it, but they are merely a lack of progress in the direction 
of the end. 

Venial sin is the failure to do a good that could and ought to be a, doně; it is, therefore, 
the privation of a good and for that reason it is an evil, since evil is by definition the 
privation of good. 

Imperfection is the nonacguisition of a good, the simple absence of a good, the negation 
of a good; and hence, in a strict sense, it is not an evil. (17) 

Gradesof Perfection 

Christian perfection consists formally and primarily in the perfection of charity; therefore, to 
speak of the grades of Christian perfection is to speak of the degrees of charity. In discussing the 
various degrees of charity, St. Thomas uses the classical division that is based on the three ways 
or stages of the spirituál life, but he uses the terms beginners, proficient and perfect rather than 
the more common division into purgative, illuminative, and unitive. 

In the physical and psychological growth and development of human life, one can distinguish 
three basic stages: infancy, adolescence, and maturity. These are characterized by the appearance 

and exercise of vital activities that are more and more perf ect. Something similar occurs in tne 
growth of charity, although one could distinguish in this growth an indefinite number of degrees. 

The various degrees of charity are distinguished according to the different pursuits to 
which man is brought by the increase of charity. For at first it is incumbent on man to 
occupy himself chiefly with avoiding sin and resisting his concupiscences, which move 
him in opposition to charity. This concems beginners, in whom charity has to be fed or 
fostered lest it be destroyed. 

In the second pláce, man's chief pursuit is to aim at progress in good, and this is the 
pursuit of the proficient, whose chief aim is to strengthen their charity by adding to it. 

Man's third pursuit is to aim chiefly at union with and enjoyment of God, and this 
belongs to the perfect, who desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.(18) 

The three stages or degrees of charity are nothing more than divisions that characterize in a 
generál way the infinite variety of aspects in the Christian life. The path of the supernatural life is 
a winding path, and its stages offer a variety of transitions and levels that will differ with each 
individual. We must nevěr think that the three basic stages are self-contained compartments, and 
that those who are at a given time in one stage will nevěr participate in the activities of another 

A soul in the purgative stage may experience the graces of the illuminative stage. Sometimes 
God gives to souls in the ascetical statě the graces that are proper to the mystical statě. Likewise, 
advanced souls may sometimes find it necessary to return to the exercises and practices proper to 
a lower stage through which they háve already passed. The Spirit breathes where he will and 
therefore one should avoid rigid classification. 

The Possibility ofAttaining Perfection 

The doctrine that states that charity can increase indefinitely in this life is certainly sublime, and 
it appeals to the aspirations of generous souls; but it seems to imply a serious contradiction. If 
charity nevěr reaches its terminus in this life, then Christian perfection is impossible of 
attainment in this life, where there is no degree of charity so perfect that it could not be more 

This difficulty did not escape the attention of St. Thomas. He establishes the thesis of the 
possibility of perfection by using a proof from authority. The divine law cannot command the 
impossible; but Christ commands us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48); 
therefore, it is certain that perfection is attainable in this life: 

The perfection of the Christian life consists in charity. But perfection implies and 
presupposes a certain universality, since, as the Philosopher says, that is perfect to which 
nothing is lacking. Hence we may consider a threefold perfection. One is absolute, and 
answers to a totality not only on the part of the lover but also on the part of the object 
loved, so that God be loved as much as he is lovable. Such perfection as this is not 
possible to any creature, but is [appropriate] to God alone, in whom good [exists] wholly 
and essentially. 

Another perfection answers to an absolute totality on the part of tne lover, so that tne 
affective faculty. always actually tends to God as much as it possibly can; and such 
perfection as this is not possible so long as we are on the way, but we shall háve it in 

The third perfection answers to a totality neither on the part of the object loved nor on the 
part of the lover as regards his always actually tending to God, but on the part of the lover 
as regards the removal of obstacles to the movement of love toward God, in which sense 
Augustine says, "Camal desire is the poison of charity; to háve no camal desires is the 
perfection of charity." Such perfection as this can be had in this life, and in two ways. 
First by the removal from man's affections of all that is contrary to charity, such as 
mortal sin; and since there can be no charity apart from this perfection, it is necessary for 
salvation. Secondly, by the removal from man's affections, not only of whatever is 
contrary to charity, but also of whatever hinders the minďs affections from tending 
wholly to God. Charity is possible apart from this perfection, for instance in those who 
are beginners and in those who are proficient. (19) 

Conseguently, to be perfect in this life reguires the exclusion of anything that impedes the 
totality of the affective movement toward God. At first glance, it would seem that St. Thomas is 
content with reguiring very little, but if one penetrates the meaning of his words, it becomes 
evident that he is referring to a sublime perfection. The totality of the affective tendency toward 
God demands that the soul work to its full capacity. It does not mean a constant and ever actual 
manner of operation, which is not possible in this life, but the habitual tendency to the practice of 
the more perfect, excluding, so far as human weakness permits, the voluntary imperf ections and 
remiss acts. 

It does not follow from this that, if there exists the slightest voluntary imperf ection, one could 
not be said to be perfect. Christian perfection does not demand this much. Even in the heights of 
perfection there are voluntary faults and failures, and theologians who admit the confirmation in 
grace of those souls who háve attained the transforming union are accustomed to make the 
reservation that this confirmation refers only to mortal sins and not to venial sins, and much less 
to positive imperfections. As St. James (3:2) states: "We all make many mistakes," and St. John 
adds: "If we say we háve no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). 
Only the beatific vision completely exhausts the capacity of the soul and thereby prevents it from 
the slightest deviation or distraction to anything other than G od. Even the slightest imperf ection 
is impossible in heaven, but on earth it is impossible to avoid all imperfection. 

It is clear that these imperfections and venial sins do not cause the transformed soul to descend 
from its lofty statě, because they are transitory actions that leave no trace in the soul and are 
rapidly consumed by the fire of charity. They are like drops of water that fall into a blazing fire 
and are evaporated in an instant; they may even cause th6 fire to burn more brightly, because on 
encountering something contrary to itself the act of charity comes forth with greater force to 
destroy it. 

Goďs Will and Christian Perfection 

If the degree of charity that constitutes perfection is not limited by the nature of charity itself, by 
its relation to its proper object, or by its relation to the subject, what is it that determines the 

degree of charity for each soul? No other answer is possible but the will of God. 

We are dealing now with one of the most hidden aspects of divine predestination. God distributes 
his graces among creatures in various degrees and without any other determination but his own 
free will, as St. Paul teaches: '.' Grace was given to each of us acconding to the measure of 
Chrisťs gift" (Eph. 4:7). 

There can be no doubt about ťhis. According to St. Paul the unegual distribution of graces has a 
finality that pertains to the totality of the Mystical Body of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:11-13). Everything 
is subordinated and orientated to Christ in order that the whole Christ -- both Head and members 
-- may give glory to God, the supreme finality, the alpha and omega of the works of God ad 
extra. As St. Paul says: "All things are yours... and you are Chrisťs, and Christ is Goďs" (1 Cor. 
3:21, 23). "When, finally, all has been subjected to the Son, he will then subject himself to the 
One who made all things subject to him, so that God may be all in all"' (1 Cor. 15:28). 

Granting the ineguality of the distribution of graces, is there any way in which we can verify the 
degree of perfection and charity determined by God for a particular soul? In no way. Since there 
is neither on the part of the creature nor on the part of grace itself any title that would reguire a 
determined degree of perfection, it is utterly impossible to verify that degree or even to 
conjecture what it might be. It depends entirely and exclusively on the free will of God, which 
cannot be known except by divine revelation. 

God does not predestine all of us to one and the samé degree of perfection. Moreover, it is a fact 
that many Christians die without having reached Christian perfection. Indeed, some die 
impenitent and showing the signs of reprobation. Does this mean that they were not called by 
God to perfection or to etemal life? Not at all. To hold this would be an obvious error in regard 
to perfection, and it would be close to, heresy in regard to etemal life. St. Paul expressly tells us 
that God "wants all men to be saved and come to know the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). This samé 
teaching has been taught by the Church, (20) and is the unanimous doctrine of all Catholic 
theologians. Moreover, we háve already established the doctrine that all are called to the 
perfection of the Christian life. 

Then how can one explain the fact that many Christians die without having attained Christian 
perfection? The key to the solution lies in the distinction between the call and predestination, and 
between the antecedent and the conseguent will of God. Prescinding from the problém of 
predestination to glory (which is not the purpose of our study but can be resolved with the samé 
principles that we are going t) lay down) and confining our investigation to the universal call to 
Christian perfection, we find that the solution seems to be as follows. 

It is certain that we are all called to sanctity and perfection in a remote and sufficient manner by 
the antecedent will of God. But in a proximate and efficacious manner, as an effect of the 
consequent will of God (to which predestination pertains), each person is assigned a degree of 
perfection by God, and the persohs degree of glory in heaven will correspond to this degree. 
Those who are predestined to the summit of perfection will infallibly reach that degree, since the 
conseguent will of God cannot be frustrated. Those who do not reach the heights of perfection 
háve failed, for one reason or another, to correspond with the remote and sufficient call to 
perfection. In other words, according to the antecedent will of God, all are called, to Christian 
perfection and to all are offered sufficient graces to obtain it if they freely cooperate with the 

divine action. But according to the consequent will of God, all souls are not predestined to the 
heights of Christian perfection. It is one thing to be called, and it is another thing to be selected, 
as we read in the Gospel: "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14). 

This mystery in no way compromises the teaching that all are called to Christian perfection and 
that this perfection is the eminent development of the initial grace received in baptism. The 
majority of Christians die without reaching Christian perfection, but this does not mean that they 
were not called to perfection, according to the antecedent will of God, or were not offered the 
graces to attain perfection. It is not Goďs fault if Christians resist those sufficient graces and do 
not attain the degree of perfection that they could háve reached. 


Cf. Summa theologiae, I, q. 6, a. 3; q. 73, a. 1. 

Cf. Josephde Guibert, Documenta ecclesiastica christianae perfectionis studium spectantia 
(Róme: Gregorianum, 1931), n. 266. 

Cf. Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 184, a. 1. 

Ibid., q. 26, a. 4; q. 184, a. 3. 

St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love ofGod, trans. B. Mackey (Westminster,Md.: 
Newman, 1942), Chap. 6. 

Cf. Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 27, a. 8, ad 3. 

St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (New Y ork: Sheed & Ward, 
1946), Seventh Mansions, Chap. 4. 

St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night ofthe Soul, trans. E. Allison Peers J Westminster, Md.: 
Newman, 1957), Bookl, Chap. 7. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 24, a. 7. 

Ibid., q. 184, a. 3. 

Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 40. 

Pope Pius XI, Rerum Omnium. January 16, 1923, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XV (1923), p. 50. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 184, a. 8. 

St. Thomas Aquinas, In Epištolám ad Hebraeos, 6:1. 

Ibid., In Evangelium Matth., 19:12. 

Summa theologiae, I-II, q. 20, a. 4. 

Cardinal Mercier, La vie intérieure, appel aux ámes sacerdotales (1919). 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 24, a. 9. 

Ibid., q. 184, a. 2. 

Council of Valence (855), De praedestinatione (Denz.-Schón. 625-633). 

Christian Perfection and Mystical Experience 

Most controversies on the mystical question arise from a lack of agreement on the terminology to 
be ušed. Therefore, the centrál problém is to come to an understanding concerning the definition 
of mysticism. And the surest way to arrive at a definition is by the application of theological 
principles. The data of experience and descriptions by mystics themselves háve not proved to be 
satisfactory, nor will they ever solve the problém . The reason is that the data of mystical 
experience are vague and lack precision because the experience itself is indescribable. 

In fact, the data from the mystics must be evaluated by theological principles and conclusions. 
A ny státem ents that are at variance with these theological truths will háve to be rejected a priori, 
regardless of their author, since it is impossible that one truth should contradict another and still 
proceed from the one source of eternal truťh in whom there can be no contradiction. If one must 
choose between a certain theological conclusion and a contrary statement from mystical 
experience, one will háve to choose the first, because the theological principle from which the 
conclusion follows has its ultimate basis in divine revelation. To do otherwise would be to run 
the risk of all types of illusions. 

Mystical Experience 

The question of mysticism or the mystical experience has been the source of controversy since 
the early days of the Church, when St. Paul and the Apostolic Fathers attempted to distinguish 
between Christian and pagan gnosis. With the passage of time and the deeper investigations of 
later theologians, the term mysticism became more refined, so that with Pseudo- Dionysius it 
signified the experience of the divine, passively received. This concept remained stable 
ťhroughout the centuries but in modem times, because of more accurate methods of investigation 
and more precise distinctions, the mystical question has again become an occasion of discussion. 

There is a great variety of definitions among modern authors, but through them all one can 
perceive a basis of common agreement concerning the constitutive element of Christian 
mysticism. They dispute at great lengťh as to whether mysticism is necessary for Christian 
perfection, and they argue about many other questions related to this one, but as regards the 
nature of mysticism they are for the most part in agreement. Many identify mysticism with 
infused contemplation, which is not quite exact,(l) but all agree on one thing: as a psychological 
fact, mysticism is an awareness of the divine activity on the soul. Mysticism is a passive and not 
an active experience because -- and here also there is a generál agreement among theologians -- 
only the Holý Spirit can produce this experience in us by the actuation of his gifts. 

Mystical Experience and the Gifts ofthe Holý Spirit 

The constitutive element of mystical experience is the actuation of tne gifts of tne Holý Spirit in 
the divine or supematural mode, which noraially produces a passive experience of God or of his 
divine activity in the soul. We are not referring to any extemal characteristic or psychological 
manifestation that may accompany the mystical experience. We are speaking of the essential 
notě that intrinsicalry constitutes mysticism. 

The actuation of the gifts constitutes the very essence of mysticism. Whenever a gift of the Holý 
Spirit operates, there is a mystical act that is more or less intense. And when the actuation of the 
gifts is so freguent and repeated that it predominates over the exercise of the infused virtues, 
which operáte in a human manner -- characteristic of the ascetical statě -- the soul has entered 
into the mystical statě. This is always relative, of course, since the gifts nevěr operáte, even in 
the great mystics, in a manner that is absolutely continuous and uninterrupted. 

Since the actuation of the gifts is the primary and essential element of mysticism, it is nevěr 
lacking in any of the mystical states or mystical acts. The experience of the divine is one of the 
most freguent and ordinary manifestations in the activity of the gifts, but it is not absolutely 
essential. It can be lacking; and, as a matter of fact, it is lacking during the dark nights of the soul 
or passive purifications that are nevertheless truly mystical.{2) What can nevěr be lacking is the 
supematural manner in which the soul operates as a result of being moved by the gifts of the 
Holý Spirit and its awareness that it is being acted upon by a divine power. 

On the other nand, in the midst of the sufferings of the passive purgations, which cause a feeling 
of the total absence of God,[3] the soul continues to practice the virtues to a heroic degree and in 
a manner that is more divine than ever. Its faith is most vivid, its hope is superior to all hope, and 
its charity is above all measure. 

The awareness of the divine action is also one of the basic differences between the mystical statě 
and the ascetical statě. The ascetical soul lives the Christian life in a purely human manner, 
though under the guidance of faith and charity. Its awareness of the divine is restricted to 
reflection and discursus. The mystics, on the other nand, experience in themselves, except in 
those cases mentioned, the ineffable reality of the life of grace. They are the witnesses of the 
loving presence of God in us. 

Passivity is another typical notě. Mystics are fully aware that what they are experiencing is not 
produced by themselves. They did not cause the experience and cannot retain it for a second 
longer than is desired by the one who produces it. 

The descriptions written by mystics reveal that a psychological passivity of love dominates their 
life. They háve the impression, more or less sensible, of an intervention from outside themselves 
that rises from the depths of their being to unitě them to God and to enjoy a certain fruition of 
God. We are referring, of course, to a relative passivity; that is, the principál agent is the Holý 
Spirit, but the soul reacts in a vital manner to his movement. As St. Teresa says, "the will 
consents" by cooperating with the divine action in a free and voluntary manner. And thus liberty 
and merit are preserved under the activity of the gifts. 

But how do the gifts of the Holý Spirit produce this passive experience of the divine, and why do 
they cease to give this experience during the passive purgations? It is the constant teaching of St. 
Thomas and theologians of all schools that the union of the soul with God, begun essentially 

ťhrough sanctifying grace, is actuated and perfected by the acts of supernatural knowledge and 
love, ťhat is, by the exercise of faiťh and of charity .(41 But, although supernatural as regards their 
essence, faith and charity are not supernatural in their manner of operation. 

The nature and function of the gifts of the Holý Spirit are far different, as we háve already seen. 
The gifts are supernatural not only in their essence, but even in their manner or mode of 
operation. They are not subject to the movement and control of human reason as the infused 
virtues are, for the Holý Spirit himself directly and immediately moves the gifts to operation. In 
this respect they are superior to all the infused virtues. 

The intensity of the mystical experience will depend on the intensity with which the gift has been 
actuated. When mystical acts occur in the ascetical statě, the gifts will usually be actuated with 
less intensity because the imperfect disposition of the subject will not permit more. The gift 
produces an experience of the divine, but it is so weak that the soul scarcely notices it. If it is a 
guestion of one of the intellectual gifts, there will be a transitory act of infused contemplation, 
but in a very incipient degree that is almost imperceptible. St. John of the Cross explains this as 

It is true, however, that when this condition first begins, the soul is hardly aware of this loving 
knowledge. The reason for this is twofold. First, this loving knowledge is apt at the beginning to 
be very subtle and delicate, so as to be almost imperceptible to the senses. Secondly, when the 
soul is ušed to the exercise of meditation, which is wholly perceptible, it is unaware and hardly 
conscious of this other new and imperceptible condition, which is purely spirituál; especially 
when, not understanding it, the soul does not allow itself to rest in it, but strives after the former, 
which is more readily perceptible. The result is that, however abundant the loving, interior peace 
may be, the soul has no opportunity of experiencing and enjoying it.(5) 

Such is the nature of the mystical experience. At the beginning it is subtle and delicate and 
almost imperceptible because of the imperfect actuation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit; but the 
actuation is gradually intensified and becomes more freguent until the activity of the gifts 
predominates in the life of the soul. Then the soul has entered into the mystical statě, whose 
essential characteristic is the predominance of the activity of the gifts in a divine mode over the 
simple exercise of the infused virtues in a human mode, as was proper to the ascetical statě. 

During the passive purgations, however, the divine motion of the gifts has as its purpose the 
purification of the soul from all its attachments. It not only deprives the soul of any delightful 
awareness of God but also gives the soul a contrary experience of absence and abandonment by 
God, which is of great purgative value. In these cases the gift is limited to its essential and 
primary effect, which is to provide a supernatural modality to the exercise of the virtues, but it 
lacks its secondary and accidental effect, the experience of the divine. 

If to this difference on the part of the divine movement we add the dispositions of the soul during 
the passive purgation of the senses, it will be evident why the soul does not perceive the divine 
movement of the gifts during that period. As St. John of the Cross explains in the text that we 
háve cited, when the first light of contemplation begins to dawn, the soul is not yet accustomed 
to that subtle, delicate, and almost insensible light that is communicated to it. And since, on the 
other nand, the soul is incapacitated for the exercise of the discursive meditation to which it was 
accustomed, it is left apparently without the one or the other and in complete obscurity. 

During the passive purgation of the spirit however, the suffering of ťhe soul is much more 
intense and it is painfully aware of imperfections and miseries that it. had been incapable of 
perceiving before ťhe divine light illumined and purged the soul of its igno rance. St. John of the 
Cross describes the passive purgation in terms of "dark contemplation" : 

God strips their faculties, affections and feelings, both spirituál and sensual, both outward and 
inward, leaving the intellect dark, the will dry, the memory empty and the affections in the 
deepest affliction, bitterness and straitness, taking from the soul the pleasure and experience of 
spirituál blessings which it had aforetime .... All this the Lord works in the soul by means of a 
pure and dark contemplation .... 

But the guestion arises: Why is the divine light (which, as we say, illumines and purges the soul 
from its ignorances) here called by the soul a dark night? To this the answer is that for two 
reasons this divine wisdom is not only night and darkness for the soul, but is likewise affliction 
and torment. The first is because of the height of divine wisdom, which transcends the talent of 
the soul, and in this way is darkness to it; the second, because of the soul's vileness and impurity, 
in which respect it is painful and afflictive to it, and is also dark.(6) 

St. John of the Cross dedicates approximately twenty pages of Book II of The Dark Night to a 
detailed explanation of the purgative contemplation that brings darkness and affliction to the soul 
in order to lead it into the light and dispose it for the divine inflowing. He states repeatedly that 
this purgation of the dark night of the spirit is the work. of the Lord and that the soul is passive 
under the action of the dark ray of contemplation. The entire activity is therefore a mystical 
purification that will lead the soul eventually to the transforming union. 

Mysticism and the Perfection of Charity 

The mystical experience is not an extraordinary grace similar to charismatic graces but is ťhe 
normál conseguence of the operation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit. We háve already implied this 
in the previous explanation, but it is well to emphasize the fact that mysticism is the flowering of 
ťhe life of grace and the crowning achievement of the perfection of charity. For many centuries 
ťhere were theologians who maintained that all mysticism was an extraordinary grace and 
ťherefore should not be expected or desired.{7) Thanks to the efforts of John Arintero(8) and 
Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,{9) the traditional doctrine of mysticism has been restored. 

Today this thesis has been so firmly established that few spirituál theologians of any competence 
would consider mysticism an extraordinary grace reserved only for a few select souls. 
Asceticism and mysticism do not constitute two distinct paths to Christian holiness; they are two 
stages on the samé path to ťhe perfection of charity. 

The normalcy of mystical experience in relation to the life of grace and the perfection of charity 
is readily admitted by all who admit that the actuation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit constitutes 
ťhe mystical act. But ťhere is also another theological argument to substantiate the foregoing 
thesis; it is based on the fact that all Christians are called to the perfection of charity. 

We háve already discussed the vocation of all Christians to the perfection of charity, but it is well 
to recall the distinction between the ontological or objective degree of grace and charity to which 
ťhe individuals are called, in accordance with Goďs will, and the subjective degree of radicahon 
of grace and charity in the soul, from which proceeds the perfection of charity in its affective and 

effective intensity. There are differences among individuals in regard to their objective degree of 
grace, willed for them by God, both on earth and in glory ("In my Fatheťs house there are many 
dwelling places" -- John 14:2), but each individual is called to the full perfection of charity made 
operative by the gifts of the Holý Spirit the fruits, and the beatitudes. In other words, all are 
called to the subjective and intensive plenitude of charity in accordance with the objective degree 
or measure of grace that God has decreed for each one. But to exercise charity with such 
intensive perfection will necessarily reguire the actuation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit which is 
a mystical act 

Mystical Activity and Contemplative Prayer 

Mystical activity does not necessarily include infused contemplative prayer. 

It can readily be admitted that all infused contemplative prayer is a mystical operation since, as 
we shall see later, it necessarily involves the actuation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit. The 
guestion is whether mystical activity and contemplative prayer are so intimately connected that 
the two can be considered as concomitant elements of all mystical experience. Some authors, 
especially those who vigorously defend infused contemplation as the logical conseguence of 
perfect charity actuated by the gifts, seem at times to imply that infused contemplation is a 
necessary componentof all mystical activity. However, mystical activity and infused prayer are 
not only distinct but also separable. It is trne that there can be no infused contemplative prayer 
without mystical activity, since infused prayer reguires the operation of the gifts of the Holý 
Spirit; but there can be mystical activity without infused contemplation. 

The theological reason for making a distinction between infused contemplative prayer and 
mystical activity is readily grasped when we recall the nature of the gifts of the Holý Spirit and 
their division. Since the gifts operáte in a supernatural mode and the soul is therefore passive or 
receptive under their movement they constitute the essential element in mystical activity. 
Conseguently, every operation of a gift is a mystical act whether the gift operates in a cognitive 
faculty or in an appetitive faculty. But one of the affective gifts could be actuated and produce a 
mystical act without producing infused contemplative prayer, which is caused by the intellectual 
gifts of wisdom and understanding. Conseguently, the mystical act and infused contemplative 
prayer are distinct and separable. 

Moreover, there is an argument drawn from the experience and testimony of the mystics 
themselves. St. John of the Cross states that during the passive purgation the soul feels as if 
abandoned and rejected by God.(10] There is no experience whatever of God as present and 
united to the soul, and yet the passive purgations are mystical operations. It follows, therefore, 
that infused contemplation is not a necessary component of all mystical activity but is only one 
type of mystical activity. 

Finally, the samé conclusion is reached if we consider that the Christian life, as lived by the 
individual, is both contemplative and active. There are virtues to perfect the individual in 
contemplative and active pursuits, and there are gifts of the Holý Spirit that can raise the 
contemplative and active operations to the mystical level. But we know from experience that 
contemplative pursuits are not only distinct from those of the active life but are also sometimes 
incompatible with them. So also, although the gifts, like the virtues, are in one sense interrelated, 
the operation of one gift, such as the gift of fortitude or piety, may impede the simultaneous 

operation of another gift, such as wisdom or understanding. Therefore, infused contemplation is 
not necessarily an element of each mystical activity. 

It should be noted that the distinction we are making is between the mystical act and infused 
contemplative prayer, and not between infused contemplation and the mystical statě. That is 
another guestion entirely, and we shall treat it in the following section. For the moment it 
suffices to say that the life of any individual Christian will be predominantly either 
contemplative or active, and if he reaches the degree of perfection in which the gifts become 
operative, he will be characterized by the mystical acts of the contemplative or the active life. 
Thus, the saints, who were canonized not only for their perfection in charity but also for the 
heroic degree of othervirtues, provide a beautiful variety of the ways in which the gifts of the 
Holý Spirit operáte in the Christian life. 

Mystical Experience, Grace, and Charity 

Mystical activity is a normál concomitant of the perfection of grace and charity. 

Sanctifying grace by its very nature demands an increase and a growth. This is so clear that it is 
admitted by all Lhe different schools of Christian spirituality. If grace were infused in the soul 
already perfectly developed, the obligation to strive for perfection would be meaningless and 
absurd. Mystical activity is the actuation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit in a divine mode, usually 
producing a passive experience of the divine. This point is also admitted by all theologians -- 
with certain differences, to be sure, but these do not affect the substance of the matter. There is 
also perfect agreement conceming the meaning of the normál development of sanctifying grace. 
Whatever falls within the exigencies of grace evidently falls within the normál and ordinary 
development. And whatever is outside the exigencies of grace will be extraordinary in its 
development. On this all theologians are in agreement. 

All the schools of Christian spirituality recognize that the simple actuation of a gift of the Holý 
Spirit cannot be classified among the extraordinary phenomena (as one would classify, for 
example, the charismatic graces -- gratiae gratis datae), but that it is something perfectly normál 
and ordinary in the life of grace. We háve already demonstrated that the gifts of the Holý Spirit 
do not and cannot act in a human mode; this human manner of operation is absolutely 
incompatible with the nature of the gifts. Conseguently, either the gifts do not operáte, or they 
necessarily operáte in a divine manner - and then we are in the domain of the mystical because 
that actuation in a divine mode, necessarily produces a mystical act. 

The Mystical State and Christian Perfection 

The mystical experience is distinct and separable from the mystical statě. The mystical 
experience is produced by the operation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit in their divine modality. 
Conseguently, there is a mystical act, more or less intense, as often as any gift of the Holý Spirit 
operates in the soul. The actuation of a gift will give to the soul, if nothing prevents it, a passive 
experience of the divine that is more or less intense; from a psychological point of view it is an 
ordinary phenomenon in mysticism. 

But an isolated actuation of a gift of the Holý Spirit does not suffice to constitute the mystical 
statě. A statě is something fixed, stable, permanent, and habitual. Conseguently there is no 
mystical statě until the actuation of the gifts is so intense and freguent that this operation 

habitually predominates over the simple exercise of the infused virtues in a human mode. 

However, the expression mystical statě must be understood correctly. The mystical statě consists 
in the predominance of the rule of the gifts, but this does not signify a psychological statě that is 
habitual in the proper sense of the word. The gifts of the Holý Spirit do not act continuously and 
unintemiptedly in any mystic; to be sure, they operáte in the soul of the mystic in a manner that 
is increasingly intense and more freguent, but nevěr in a permanent and uninterrupted manner. 

The reason is evident: for the operation of the gifts a speciál motion of the Holý Spirit is reguired 
in each čase, because he alone can actuate them directly and immediately. This motion 
corresponds to the movement of the actual graces that are of themselves transitory. Therefore, 
when theologians and mystics speak of the mystical statě, they use the words in a wide sense, 
meaning that the soul is habitually so attentive and responsive to the Holý Spirit that ordinarily 
the acts of the gifts will replace the personál initiative that is exercised through the infused 

Reducing this distinction to precise formulas, we would offer the following definitions: The 
mystical act is the simple actuation, more or less intense, of a gift of the Holý Spirit operating in 
a divine manner. The mystical statě is the manifest predominance of the activity of the gifts, 
operating in a divine manner, over the simple exercise of the infused virtues, operating in a 
human manner. 

Ascetical and Mystical Activity 

Asceticism is not confined to the ascetical statě, nor is mysticism reserved to the mystical statě. 
What determines either statě is the habitual predominance of ascetical or mystical activity. 

This statement follows from what we háve already stated regarding mystical activity in generál. 
An isolated mystical act and mystical experience do not constitute the mystical statě. On the 
other nand, persons in the ascetical statě may be moved by the Holý Spirit through his gifts, 
while those who are already in the mystical statě may sometimes need to proceed in the manner 
of ascetics. Such is the teaching of St. Teresa when she tells her nuns that souls that háve reached 
the sublime heights of the seventh mansions must sometimes retům to the human mode of 
operation. (ll) 

John Arintero explains this doctrine as follows: 

All souls in the statě of grace, possessing as they do the gifts of the Holý Spirit, ... already 
possess the seeds and rudiments of the mystical life and can develop and manifest them little by 
little .... Therefore the true ascetic, even the lowliest Christian, who takés seriously the unum 
necessarium which is the work of sanctification, ... will freguently work under the divine 
impulses, although he may not clearly advert to it .... So the soul which as yet proceeds along the 
ascetical way sometimes produces truly mystical acts, just as the mystic on many occasions 
produces asgetical acts .... The mystics, however elevated they may be, when the Holý Spirit 
withdraws his action for some time ... must proceed and do proceed after the manner of ascetics 

When the soul habitually produces acts of virtue and, denying itself, ordinarily permits itself to 
be moved without resistance by the touchings and breathings of the sanctifying Spirit,... then we 

can say ťhat the soul is now in the full mystical statě, although from time to time it will still háve 
to retům to the ascetical state.(12) 

At this point a question naturally arises: when does the soul enter definitively into the mystical 
statě? The best reply to this question is a tentative one, an estimation. The reason is that the 
transition from the ascetical statě to the mystical statě is not like passing through a dooř from one 
room to another; it is a gradual process wherein the virtue of charity develops to the point of total 
abandonment of šelf to the movements of the Holý Spirit. Absolutely speaking, however, God 
could place„,a soul in the mystical statě at the very beginning of the spirituál life. 

But in order to give at least a tentative reply to the question, we would say that the mystical statě 
begins when the soul habitually (though not exclusively) acts under the operation of the gifts of 
the Holý Spirit. If we judge from the active and passive purgations, the mystical statě begins 
during the passive night of the senses; if we use the grades of prayer as a measure, the mystical 
statě begins in the prayer of union. However, as Father Arintero points out, the mystical statě 
may actuaUy begin much earlier: 

The habitual mystical statě begins fully with the prayer of union, although there are still great 
interruptions until the soul reaches full and stable union. But the mystical statě is initiated in the 
stage of affective prayer and then, in the night of the senses, however much the soul is able to 
recognize the fact, it is accentuated more and more. (13) 

We can conclude, therefore, that the mystical life is in some way already present in the ascetical 
life. It embraces the whole development of the Christian life and the whole path to union with 
God, but is clearly and habitually manifested in the unitive way. 

Complete Perfection and the Mystical State 

Complete Christian perfection is found only in the mystical statě. This is another conclusion that 
follows from the theological principles we háve already established. Christian perfection consists 
in the full development of the sanctifying grace received at baptism as a seed. This development 
is verified by the increase of the infused theological and moral virtues, and especially that of 
charity, the virtue.whose perfection coincides with the perfection of the Christian life. 

But the infused virtues cannot attain their full perfection except under the influence of the gifts of 
the Holý Spirit, for without the gifts they cannot go beyond the human modality under the rule of 
reason to which they are restricted in the ascetical statě. Only the divine modality of the gifts 
gives the infused virtues the atmosphere that they need for their perfection. It is this 
predominance of the activity of the gifts of the Spirit operating in a divine mode that 
characterizes the mystical statě. Therefore it follows that complete Christian perfection 
necessarily requires the mystical statě. 

Let us review the teaching of two authorities in experimental mysticism: St. John of the Cross 
and St. Teresa of Avila, whose doctrines are in complete accord with the teachings of St. Thomas 

The teaching of St. John of the Cross is orientated to the transforming union, and this union 
constitutes complete Christian perfection. But the transforming union is attained through the 
passive purgations that enable the love of God to become perfect. The following two texts clearly 

indicate his thought: 

However assiduously the beginner practices the mortification in himself of all these actions and 
passions, he can nevěr completely succeed-very far from it-until God works it in him passively 
by means of the purgation of the said night 

But neither from these imperfections nor from those others can the soul be perfectly purified 
until God brings it into the passive purgation of that dark night of which we shall presently speak 
.... For however greatly the soul itself labors, it cannot actively purify itself so as to be prepared 
in the least degree for the divine union of perfection of love if God does not také its hand and 
purge it in that dark fire, in the way and manner that we háve yet to describe. (14) 

The teaching of St. Teresa of Avila is in conformity with that of St. John of the Cross, although 
she traces the path to perfection along the grades of prayer rather than that of the active and 
passive purgations. Not only does she describe the various degrees of prayer of union that are 
proper to the mystical statě, but she also states expressly that she is wilting for those souls 
desirous of attaining the heights of the mystical life. 

I seem to háve been contradicting what I had previously said, since, in consoling those who had 
not reached the contemplative statě, I told them that the Lord had different roads by which they 
might come to him, just as he also had many mansions. I now repeat this: his Majesty, being who 
he is and understanding our weakness, has provided for us. But ne did not say: " Some must come 
by this way and others by that." His. mercy is so great that he has forbidden none to strive to 
come and drink of this fountain of love. (15) 

Remember, the Lord invites us all; and since he is Truth itself, .we cannot doubt him. If his 
invitation were not a generál one, he would not háve said: "I will give you to drink." He might 
háve said: "Come, all of you, for after all you will lose nothing by coming; and I will give drink 
to those whom I think fit for it." But since he.said that we. were all to come, without making this 
condition, I feel sure that none will fail to receive this living water unless they cannot keep to the 

This concludes our examination of the theological principles that constitute the systematic part of 
spirituál theology. We now focus our attention on tne application of the theological conclusions, 
which comprises the practical part of spirituál theology. 

Most manuals of spirituál theology treat the practical guestions within the framework of the three 
stages: purgative, illuminative, and unitive. This method is closer to the experience and evolution 
of the spirituál life, but it has the disadvantage of making separate and isolated categories of the 
three stages. A person does not definitively leave the lower stages as he passes to the higher 
ones; the spirituál life is normally a complex pattem of purgation, illumination and union, a 
blending of ascetical and mystical elements. 

Since spirituál theology relates to all the parts of theology and since the spirituál life is a 
combination of many diverse elements, perhaps there is no method of proceduře that eliminates 
all the disadvantages. Nevertheless, it is necessary to adopt one or another method, if only 
because we cannot study everything at once. Keeping in mind that the primary agent in the 
spirituál life is the Holý Spirit, who is not in any way restricted to our theological conclusions 
and directives, we shall use a topical method, dividing the materiál into homogeneous parts but 

following at least in generál the stages of development from conversion to the perfection of 

Accordingly, we shall now treat of conversion and progressive purgation, positive growth in 
holiness, the practice of prayer and, finally, mystical phenomena and the discemment of spirits. 


Jacgues Maritain was one of the first theologians to explain the distinction between infused 
contemplation and mystical experience. See "Une guestion sur la vie mystigue," inLa Vie 
Spirituelle, Paris, VII (1923), pp. 636-50. 

To say that the passive purgations are mystical activity only to the extent that the soul is 
passive under their influence and they dispose the soul for infused contemplation, is an 
attempt to savé the opinion that considers the experience of the divine to be an essential 
element of mystical activity. But this is contrary to the teaching of St. John of the Cross 
and the traditional doctrine. 

"What the sorrowful soul feels most in this condition is its clear perception that G od has 
abandoned it and, abhorring it, has cast it into darkness, and this is for the soul a serious 
and pitiful suffering for it to believe that God has abandoned it" (St. John of the Cross, 
The Dark Night, trans. E. Allison Peers (Westminster, Md.: Newman, 1957), Book II, 
Chap. 6. 

Summa theologiae, III, g. 6, a. 6, ad 1; De Caritate, g. 2, ad 7. 

St. John of the Cross, TheAscent ofMount Carmel, trans. E. Allison Peers (Westminster, 
Md.: Newman, 1957) Book II, Chap. 17. 

See St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night, Book II, Chap. 3-5, passim. 

The Italian Jesuit John Baptist Scaramelli (1688-1752) was one of the first to break away 
from the traditional doctrine: Basically the difficulty stems from the inability to see the 
distinction between the remote call to Christian perfection and the fact that relatively few 
persons seem to reach the mystical statě. Another difficulty arises when all mystical 
phenomena are classified as extraordinary graces. 

See John G. Arintero, The Mystical Evolution in the D evelopment and Vitality ofthe Church, 
trans. Jordán Aumann (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1949), 2 vols. 

See Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The ThreeAges ofthe Interior Life, trans. Timothea Doyle 
(St. Louis: B. Herder, 1947), 2 vols.; Christian Perfection and Contemplation, trans. 
Timothea Doyle (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1944). 

St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night, Book II, Chap. 6. 

St. Teresa of Avila, The Life, Chap. 13; The Interior Castle, Seventh Mansions, Chap. 4, 
trans. E. Allison Peers (New Y ork: Sheed & Ward, 1946). 

JohnArintero, CuestionesMísticas (Madrid: B.A.C., 1956), pp. 502, 663. 

Arintero, The Mystical Evolution, Vol. 2, p. 427.r 

St. John of tne Cross, TheDark Night, Chap. 3, n. 3; Chap. 7, n. 5. 

St. Teresa of Avila, The Way ofPerfection, Chap. 20, n. 1. 

St. Teresa, op. cit, Chap. 19, n. 15. 

Growth in Holiness 

Conversion From Sin 

It is a truism in psychology that no two persons are absolutely identical. The samé thing is trne in 
the spirituál life: no two souls will follow the samé path to perfection, identical in every respect. 
On the spirituál level the differences are rooted in the. predominant moral predispositions of 
individuals as well as the particular graces that God gives to each one. 

But grace does not destroy or replace nature; it works through and perfects nature. Conseguently 
the body-soul composite of the individual person can be a help or hindrance to the operations of 
the virtues infused with sanctifying grace. It is therefore necessary, especially for spirituál 
directors, to understand the ways in which the psychosomatic structure can affect the work of 

This need is all the more evident when we realize that in this practical, applied part of spirituál 
theology we are not dealing with human nature in a vague and transcendental sense we are 
discussing the spirituál life of individual persons who are striving to die to sin and live the 
fullness of charity. We must therefore consider the human person in terms of temperament and 
character, which are the basic elements that constitute personhood. 

The Psychosomatic Structure 

According to G. W. Allport, personality can be defined as "the dynamic organization, within the 
individual, of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristic behavior and 

Most psychologists and sociál scientists maintain that the human personality is influenced 
primarily by two factors: heredity and environment. Heredity is the fundamental source of 
temperament, and environment is the basic causal factor in character. It should be noted, 
however, that environment is ušed in the widest possible sense; it includes the domestic 
environment of the family and school, culture, economic and sociál status, and religious 

But to avoid a blind determinism of personality we must add a third factor that is most important 

of all -- the free will by which we make choices. The way in which we use our capabilities, 
respond to our inner drives, and relate to our environment depends ultimately on our own free 

Types ofTemperament 

There is a diversity of opinion among psychologists concerning the classification of 
temperament. For our purposes we may define temperament as the pattem of inclinations and 
reactions that proceed from the physiological constitution of the individual. It is a dynamic factor 
that determines to a great extent the manner in which an individual will react to stimuli of 
various kinds. Rooted as it is in the physiological structure, temperament is something innate and 
hereditary; it is the natural inclination of the somatic structure. It is, therefore, something 
permanent and admits of only secondary modification; it can nevěr be totally destroyed. The 
axiom "grace does not destroy nature but perfects it" has its most obvious application in the area 
of temperament. 

The classification of the temperaments is based on the predominant characteristics of the 
physiological constitutions. It is by no means exclusive or definitivě, nor does it signify that 
there are "pure" temperaments. As a matter of fact, individuals generally manifest a combination 
of several temperaments, but one or another will usually predominate. We shall use the emotions 
as the basin of our definition and classification of temperaments because the emotions are 
psychosomatic reactions of the individual and hence dosely related to temperament. But we 
discuss the four temperaments according to the ancient classification of (1) sanguine, (2) 
melancholie, (3) choleric, and (4) phlegmatic. 

Sanguine Temperament. A person of sanguine temperament reacts guickly and strongly to 
almost any stimulation or impression, but the reaction is usually of short duration. The 
stimulation or impression is guickly forgotten, and the remembrance of past experiences does not 
easily arouse a new response. 

Among the good gualities of the sanguine temperament, we may list the following: affability and 
cheerfulness; sympathy and generosity toward others; sensitivity and compassion for the 
sufferings of others; docility, sincerity, and spontaneity. There may attimes be a vehement 
reaction to injuries received, but all is soon forgotten and no rancor remains. Others are attracted 
by the indiviďual's goodness of heart and contagious enthusiasm. 

Sanguine persons usually háve a serene view of life and are optimists. They are gifted with a 
great deal of common sense and a practical approach to life; they tend to idealize rather than 
eriticize. Since they possess an affectionate nature, they make friends easily and sometimes love 
their friends with great ardor or even passion. Their intellects are alert, and they leam guickly, 
although often without much depth. Their memory dwells on pleasant and optimistic things, and 
their imagination is active and creative. Conseguently, they readily excel in art, orátory, and the 
related fields, though they do not often attain the stature of the learned or the scholars. Sanguine 
persons could be superior types of individuals if they possessed as much depth as they do 
facility, and if they were as tenacious in their work as they are productive of new ideas and 

But each temperament will also be characterized by certain defects or predispositions to evil. The 

principál defects of the sanguine temperament are superficiality, inconstancy, and sensuality. The 
first defect is due primarily to their immediate perception of ideas and situations, their retentive 
memory, and the creative activity of their imagination. While they appear to grasp in an instant 
even the most difficult problém or subject, they sometimes see it only superficially and 
incompletely. As a result, they run the risk of hasty judgments, of acting with insufficient reason, 
and of formulating inaccurate or falše conclusions. They are more interested in breadth of 
knowledge than depth. 

The inconstancy of sanguine persons is the result of the short duration of their impressions and 
reactions. They may pass guickly frorn joy to sorrow. They guickly repent of their sins but may 
return to them on the first occasion that presents itself. Being readily moved by the impression of 
the moment they easily succumb to temptation. As a rule they abandon any effort that is of long 
duration. They háve. great difficulty in observing custody of the extemal senses and the 
imagination and are easily distracted in prayer. Their occasional periods of great fervor are often 
followed by discouragement or indifference. 

From the foregoing it follows that sensuality finds easy access to the sanguine temperament. 
Such persons are often victims of gluttony and lust. They may react strongly and with great 
sorrow after they háve fallen, but they lack the energy and perseverance to fight against the 
inclinations of the flesh when the passions are again aroused. The entire organism is guickly 
alerted when the occasion is offered for sensual pleasure, and the strong tendency of the 
individual to sensuality causes the imagination to produce such phantasms very easily. 

Sanguine persons should utilize their good gualities, such as energy, affection, vivacity, and 
sensitivity, but they should také care that these gualities are directed to objects that are good and 
wholesome. For them more than others the advice of St. Augustine has speciál significance: 
"Choose wisely and then love with all your heart." 

To overcome superficiality they will acguire the hábit of reflection and of thinking a matter 
through before they 'act. Against their inconstancy they will strengthen their will to carry through 
resolutions that háve been made and be faithful in the practice of prayer and the performance of 
good works, even in periods of ~ aridity or in times of hardship and difficulty. Lastly, sensuality 
can be combatted by constant vigilance and immediate flight from the occasions of sin, custody 
of the external senses and the imagination, the practice of recollection, and practices of 

Melancholie Temperament. The melancholie temperament is weak as regards reaction to 
stimulus, and it is difficult to arouse; however, after repeated impressions the reaction is strong 
and lasting, so that the melancholie temperament does not forget easily. 

As regards good gualities that serve as predispositions to virtue, persons of melancholie 
temperament are inclined to reflection, piety, and the interior life. They are compassionate 
toward those who suffer, attracted to the corporal works of merey, and able to endure suffering to 
the point of heroism in the performance of their duties. They háve a .sharp and profound intellect 
and, because of their natural bent to solitude and reflection, they generally consider matters 
thoroughly. They may become detached and dry intellectuals or contemplatives who dedicate 
themselves to the interior life of prayer. They usually appreciate the fine arts but are more drawn 
to the speculative sciences. 

When they love, it is with difficulty ťhat they detach themselves from ťhe object of their love. 
They suffer greatly if ethers treat them with coldness or ingratitude. The power of their will is 
greatly affected by their physical strength and health. If their physical powers are exhausted, 
their will is weak, but if they are in good health and spirits they are energetic workers. Normally 
they do not experience the vehement passions that may torment persons of a sanguine 
temperament. We may say in generál that this temperament is opposed to the sanguine 
temperament as the choleric temperament is opposed to the phlegmatic temperament. 

The unfavorable traits of the melancholie temperament are an exaggerated tendency to sadness 
and melancholy; an inclination to magnify difficulties and thus to lose confidence in šelf; 
excessive reservě and timidity, with a propensity to scrupulosity. Persons of melancholie 
temperament do not show their feelings as do the sanguine; they suffer in silence because they 
find it difficult to reveal themselves. They tend to be pessimistic, and many enterprises are nevěr 
begun because of their lack of confidence. 

Those who are in charge of educating or training the melancholie temperament should keep in 
mind their strong tendency to concentrate excessively on. themselves. It is important to inculcate 
in these persons a strong confidence in God and in themselves, as well as a more optimistic view 
of life. Since they háve good intellects and tend to reflection, they should be made to realize that 
there is no reason for them to be timid or irresolute. At all costs the director must destroy their 
indecision and get them to make firm resolutions and to undertake projects with enthusiasm and 
optimism. Sometimes it is necessary to give them a speciál regimen of rest and nourishment and 
to forbid them to spend long hours in prayer and solitude or to observe fasts. 

Choleric Temperament. Persons of a choleric temperament are easily and strongly aroused, and 
the impression lasts for a long time. Theirs is the temperament that produces great saints or great 
sinners, and while all the temperaments can contribute to sanctity, the choleric temperament is 

The good gualities of the temperament can be summarized as follows: great energy and activity, 
sharp intellect, strong and resolute will, good powers of concentration, constancy, magnanimity, 
and liberality. Choleric persons are practical rather than theoretical; they are more inclined to 
work than to think. Inactivity is repugnant to them, and they are always looking forward to the 
next labor or to the formulation of some great project. Once they háve set upon a pian of work, 
they immediately set their hand to the task. Hence this temperament produces many leaders, 
superiors, apostles. It is the temperament of government and administration. 

These persons do not leave for tomorrow what they can do today, but sometimes they may try to 
do today what they should leave for tomorrow. If difficulties and obstacles arise, they 
immediately set about to overcome them and, although they often háve strong movements of 
irascibility and impatience in the face of problems, once they háve conguered these movements 
they acguire a tenderness and sweetness of disposition that are noteworthy. 

The tenacity of the choleric temperament sometimes produces the following evil effects: 
hardness, obstinacy, insensibility, anger, and pride. If choleric persons are resisted, they may 
easily become violent, cruel, arrogant, unless the Christian virtues moderate these inclinations. If 
defeated by others, they may nurture hatred in their hearts until they háve obtained their 
vengeance. They easily become ambitious and seek their own glory. They háve greater patience 

ťhan do the sanguine, but they may lack delicacy of feeling, are often insensitive to the feelings 
of others, and therefore lack tact in human relations. Their passions, when aroused, are so strong 
and impetuous that they smother the tenderer emotions and the spirit of sacrifice that spring 
spontaneously from more sympathetic hearts. Their fever for activity and their eagemess to 
execute their resolutions cause them to disregard others, to thrust all impediments aside, and to 
give the appearance of being egoists. In their treatment of others they sometimes display 
coldness and indifference, not to mention impatience with persons who are less talented. It is 
evident from the foregoing that if the choleric person pursues the path of evil, there is no length 
to which he or she will not go in order to achieve a goal. 

Choleric persons can be individuals of great worth if they succeed in controlling and guiding 
their energies. They could arrive at the height of perfection with relative facility . In their hands 
even the most difficult tasks seem to be brought to an easy and ready solution. Therefore, when 
they háve themselves under control and are rightly directed, they will not cease in their efforts 
until they háve reached the summit. Above all, they need to cultivate true humility of heart, to be 
compassionate to the weak and the uninstructed, not to humiliate or embarrass others, not to 
flaunt their superiority, and to treat all persons with tendemess and understanding. They should 
be taught how to be detached from themselves and to manifest a generous love toward others. 

Phlegmatic Temper ament. The phlegmatic is rarely aroused emotionally and, if so, only 
weakly. The impressions received usually last for only a short time and leave no trace. 

The good characteristics of phlegmatic persons are that they work slowly but assiduously; they 
are not easily irritated by insults, misfortunes, or sickness; they usually remain tranguil, discreet, 
and sober; they háve a great deal of common sense and mental balance. They do not possess the 
inflammable passions of the sanguine temperament, the deep passions of the melancholie 
temperament, or the ardent passions of the choleric temperament. In their speech they are 
orderly, clear, positive, and measured, rather than florid and picturesgue. They are more suited to 
scientific work which involves long and patient research and minuté investigation than to 
originál productions. They háve good hearts, but they seem to be cold. They would sacrifice to 
the point of heroism if it were necessary, but they lack enthusiasm and spontaneity because they 
are reserved and somewhat indolent by nature. They are prudent, sensible, reflective, and work 
with a measured páce. They attain their goals without fanfáre or violence because they usually 
avoid difficulties rather than attacking them. Physically phlegmatics are usually of robust build, 
slow in movements, and possessing an amiable face. 

The defective gualities of the phlegmatic temperament are their slowness and calmness, which 
cause these persons to lose many good opportunities because they delay so long in putting works 
into operation. They are not interested in events that také pláce around them, but they tend to live 
by and for themselves, almost to the point of egoism. They are not suitable for govemment and 
administration. They are not usually drawn to corporal penances and mortification, and there is 
no fear that they will kill themselves by penance and self-abnegation. In extréme cases they 
become so lethargic and insensible that they become completely deaf to the invitation or 
command that would raise them out of their stupor. 

Phlegmatics can avoid the bad effects of their temperament if they are inculcated with deep 
convictions and if they demand of themselves methodical and constant efforts toward greater 
perfection. They will advance slowly, to be sure, but they will advance far. Above all, they must 

not be allowed to become indolent and apathetic but should be directed to some lofty ideál. They, 
too, need to gain control of themselves, not as the cholerics, who must restrain and moderate 
themselves, but to arouse themselves and put their dormant powers to good use. 

FactorsAffecting Character 

Character can be understood in an ethical or a psychological sense. Ethically, it comprises the 
pattern of habits cultivated by an individual in accordance with his or her accepted principles and 
values: PsychologicaHy, it is the organized totality of the tendencies and predispositions of an 
individual, grouped around and directed by a predominant tendency. Our interest is in the ethical 
aspect of character, which is largely influenced by education, environment, and, above all, by 
one's personál effort. The formation of character and the development to maturity as a person 
will depend ultimately on the cultivation and perfection of the virtues. 

Rather than physiological at basis, as is temperament, character is psychological and ethical. 
Conseguently, temperament is immutable, but it is the materiál out of which character is made, 
much in the samé way as the clay or marble or wood will be the materiál out of which a 
particular statue is fashioned. It is character that gives the formal distinction to the personality. 

Education. Under education we would include all factors that, from birth to the maturation of 
character (usually between twenty-four and thirty), háve influenced one's attitudes and habits of 
life. During the early years, from infancy to the beginning of formal education and even beyond, 
the child will be greatly affected by such factors as nationality, religious training, parental 
disciplině, and instruction. Once the child begins a formal education, the school assumes a major 
role in the formation of character, especiaHy if it is a .school in which there is insistence on 
moral instruction and disciplině. During these years and through adolescence the educational 
influence can usually be broken down into several categories: family, school, church, and 
associates. Although the effects of these educative, factors are not always immediately evident in 
the young, they leave impressions that form attitudes and value judgments that come into play 
when the individual reaches maturity and takés a pláce as a responsible member of society. 

Environment. The environmental factors are almost too numerous to mention, and they exert an 
especially strong influence on the individual during the formative years. The influence of 
example on children is too obvious to be denied.[2) While the most forceful environmental 
influences are to be found in the lives of other human beings, such commonplace things as 
nutrition, climate, neighborhood environment, and home life also exert a subtle but definite 
influence. Here again, the effects are not immediately evident in a growing child, but 
environment during youth is responsible to a large extent , for those attitudes and evaluations that 
are most deeply rooted in the personality. 

Personál Effort. By personál effort as a cause of character we mean especially the free choice 
whereby through the repetition of acts, certain habits are formed and developed until they 
become a second nature. 

Personál effort is by far the most important factor in the formation of character, and it is so 
potent an instrument that it can modify, correct, or nullify the effects of education and 

We are masters of ourselves by means of our free will, and we are responsible for the formation 

of character by reason of the fact that any acquired hábit is ultimately rooted in a deliberate 
choice of action that was repeated until the hábit was formed. In this sense we can say that 
whereas temperament is to a large extent what our ancestors háve made us, character is what we 
háve made ourselves. In its moral aspect a character will be good or evil according to whether 
the habits that predominate in an individual are virtues orvices. 

Consequently, the formation of character is dosely associated with the psychology of hábit 
formation and the theology of the virtues and vices. We háve the power within ourselves to 
become sinners or saints, but whatever our choice we will háve to exert personál effort to 

According to the ancient philosophers, a life of virtue was a guarantee of a life of happiness and 
perfection. The samé is true in reference to the ideál character: in the purely natural order it. 
requires the balance and integration that are provided by the moral and intellectual virtues. For 
the perfect Christian, however, there is further required, as a superstructure built upon the natural 
foundation, the theological and moral infused virtues, as well as the gifts of the Holý Spirit. 

From what has been said, it should be evident that it is no easy task to form a perfect character. It 
is for many the work of a lifetime, for although the majority of persons are set in their characters 
before they reach the age of thirty, it is most rare that any character does not suffer modification 
and alteration during the entire lifetime of the individual. In the formation of character we would 
stress the necessity of proper education, good will, and the assiduous cultivation of those virtues 
that pertain to the statě and duties of life of the individual person. 

The Struggle Against Sin 

Once we háve seen the good qualities and the defects of the various temperaments and háve 
understood that the formation of character is primarily a personál responsibility, we are in a 
position to investigate the problém related to conversion from sin and growth in virtue. At the 
outset we cannot emphasize too strongly the powerful influence of those predispositions to good 
and to evil that are rooted in the very temperament of the individual, but at the samé time we 
must stress with equal emphasis the ability of everyone, aided by Goďs grace, to attain the 
perfection and fulfillment of Christian maturity. Unfortunately, as a result of originál sin we are 
wounded in our very nature, and the predisposition to moral evil seems to incline us to sin, as 
Scripture says, from our youth. Hence the tension and the struggle that ensue between the love of 
God that leads to perfection and sanctification, and the love of šelf that turns us back upon 
ourselves in an egoistic love that is incompatible with the generous love that is charity. 

Nature ofSin 

Various definitions háve been given to describe sin. St. Augustine's description is classical: any 
thought, word, or deed against the law of God. The Old Testament refers to sin as a spirituál 
adultery (breaking the covenant with God), a kind of idolatry (serving the falše gods of 
self-love), or simply not measuring up to the demands of religion and charity. The New 
Testament, however, while still retaining the notion of sin as a breach in the covenant between 
God and man, places more emphasis on sin as a failure in love of God and love of neighbor. It 
brings a new perspective to sin, stressing offenses against fraternal love (the sociál aspect of sin) 
and showing that some sins are sins of omission or nonaction. St. Thomas Aquinas is fully in the 

Gospel tradition when he states that eveiy sin is a deviation from man's true ultimate end; that sin 
is formally in the will; and that therefore every sin, whatever its name, is fundamentally an act of 
self-love in opposition to the love of God.(3) 

In modem times an attempt has been made to foraiulate a new theology of sin that takés as its 
starting point not God, but man. In fact, for many persons the term anthropology has almost 
replaced the word theology. But sin, both in Scripture and in traditional theology, is primarily a 
defect in man's relationship with God. Nevertheless, to understand sin theologicaHy, that is, from 
Goďs point of view, we háve to translate it into things of our own experience. That is why we 
speak of sin as sickness or death. 

The difficulty is that some theologians use the anthropological sciences to reject sin completely; 
others imply that once a man makes his fundamental option for God, he cannot sin mortally and, 
as a result, he cannot fail to attain his ultimate end; stáli others see God as all-merciful, and 
exclusively so, or they maintain that so long as a person loves God, he need not resort to the 
sacrament of reconciliation for forgiveness of serious sins. 

A 11 three opinions are erroneous, and they are destructive of any true progress in holiness, much 
less any authentic conversion from sin. 

According to the new morality, the only absolute principle is to love. While we háve no 
intention of discussing all the complexities posed by this position, we can notě that, on 
the popular level, there is a fear that there are no more objective moral standards and that 
no actions can be proposed as outright sinful. In the catechesis of sin, this could result in 
refusing to mention, for example, the Ten Commandments or to accept any objective 
sinful actions .... It has been claimed often that Christianity is not a new moral code but a 
new life in Christ. But this is an oversimplification that could lead to moral laxity .... A 
catechesis of sin, specifying certain actions as moraHy reprehensible, is a necessary 
aspect of the presentation of Christianity .{4) 

God is love, but he is also many other things besides. For instance, reverence mightjustly 
be called the first law of creation. This reverence, or reverential fear, if you wish, is based 
on Goďs holiness and power .... If we think of God only as love, we will fall into a 
sentimental attitude by which God adopts ourway of looking at things .... We are leading 
God instead of his leading us. We are really indulging in self-love and šelf- will under a 
spirituál disguise. We make God an indulgent father, but God will háve no ne of this. He 
loves us too much to spoil us. And then, too, he cannot renounce that part of himself 
which is truth. Truth is as much a part of him as love, and truth nevěr changes to suit our 
subjective outlook and wishful thinking.(5) 

We repeat that the centrál element of our new life in Christ is love -- love of God, and love of 
šelf and neighbor in God. Sin is a rejection, a failure, or a distortion of that love that is charity. 
And while we distinguish between objective sin and subjective sin, the only actual sin is always 
a personál sin. Moreover, personál actual sin reguires sufficient knowledge (deliberation) and 
freedom of choice and action (voluntariness). Finally, sin admits of degrees of gravity, and 
conseguently we speak of serious sins (mortal) and light sins (venial). The details of the theology 
of sin, such as the various precepts that bind under sin, the various acts or non-acts that are 
sinful, and the degree of culpability and guilt, are matters for the moral theologian. 

Mortal Sin 

The expression mortal sin is still a useful one because it designates that sin that is deadly; it 
destroys the life of sanctifying grace in the soul or deepens the individuaFs alienation from God. 
Mortal sin is therefore the worst enemy of the Christian life and- the only thing that can separate 
us from God by destroying the life of grace in us. If one serious sin can cause such devastating 
effects, it is not difficult to imagine the deplorable statě of those who live in habitual mortal sin. 
Eventually the hábit of sin, like all habits, becomes like a second nature to the sinner, so that it is 
very difficult to convert to a life of virtue. Rather, the individual will be characterized by one or 
more of the capital sins: pride, gluttony, lust, avarice, sloth, envy, anger. 

In generál we can distinguish four classes of sinners, and it is well for confessors and preachers 
to be aware of the differences so that they can use the methods best suited to lead these sinners to 
conversion. The first type sins because of ignorance. We are not referring to a total and 
invincible ignorance, which would excuse entirely from sin, but to the ignorance that results 
from a completely indifferent education or from an environment that is devoid of religious 
influence. Those who live in such surroundings usually háve some awareness of the malice of 
sin. They are conscious of the fact that certain actions are not morally right, and from time to 
time they even feel a certain remorse. In any čase, they are capable of committing deliberate 
mortal sin. 

At the samé time the responsibility of such persons before God is greatly lessened. If they háve 
an aversion to that which seems unjust or sinful to them; if, in špite of external influences, they 
háve remained basically upright; and if, especially at the hour of death, they raise their heart to 
God, full of remorse and confident in his mercy, there is no doubt that they will be judged with 
mercy at the divine tribunál. If Christ advises us that much more will be asked of those to whom 
much has been given (Luke 12:48), it is reasonable to think that less will be asked of those who 
háve received little. 

Souls such as these often tum to God with comparative readiness if the opportunity presents 
itself . Since their careless life did not proceed from trne malice, but from ignorance, any situation 
that makes a strong impression on the soul and causes it to enter in upon itself may suffice to 
cause them to turn to God. The death of a member of the family, a sermon heard at a mission, the 
introduction to a religious environment, often suffices to lead such souls to the right path. The 
priest charged with their care should conscientiously complete their religious formation lest they 
return to their former statě. 

The second type of sinners comprises those who are weak, lacking in will power, strongly 
inclinedto sensual pleasure, intellectually duli, listless, orcowardly. They lament their faults, 
they admire good people anc[ would like to be one of them, but they lack the courage and energy 
to be so in reality. These dispositions do not excuse them from sin; on the contrary, they are 
more culpable than those who sin through ignorance, because they sin with a greater knowledge. 
But basically they are weak rather than evil. The person in charge of their spirituál welfare 
should be especially concerned with strengthening them in their good resolutions, leading them 
to the freguent reception of the sacraments, to reflection, and avoidance of the occasions of sin. 

The third type of sinners are those who sin with cold indifference, without remorse of 
conscience, silencing the faint voice of conscience in order to continue their life of sin without 

reproach. They do not want to give up their sin and are not concemed that their conduct offends 

The conversion of these persons is very difficult. Their constant infidelity to the inspirations of 
grace, their indifference to the basic norms of morality, their systematic disdain for the advice 
given them by those who wish to help them-all this hardens their hearts to such an extent that it 
would reguire a veritable miracle of grace for them to retům to the right path. 

Perhaps the most efficacious means .of leading them back to God would be to encourage them to 
practice certain spirituál exercises with a group of persons of the samé profession or sociál 
condition as themselves; for example, to make a retreat, a parish mission, or a cursillo. It is not 
unusual for this type of person to try some spirituál exercise out of curiosity, especially if it is 
suggested in a friendly manner, and it freguently happens that a great grace from God awaits 
them there. At times astounding conversions are effected, radical changes of life, and the 
beginning of a life of piety and fervor in persons who formerly lived completely forgetful of 
God. The priest who has the good fortuně to be the instrument of, such divine mercy should 
watch over the convert and by means of a wise and prudent direction try to assure the definitivě 
and permanent retům to God. 

The fourth class of sinners is the most culpable. These people sin through a refined malice and 
diabolical obstinacy. They may háve begun as good Christians, but little by little they 
degenerated, yielding more and more to evil until their souls were definitively conguered. Then 
came the inevitable conseguence of defection and apostasy. The last barriers háve been broken, 
and now these people are susceptible to every kind of moral disorder. They attack religion and 
the Church and may even join a non-Catholic séct and propagate its doctrines with zeal and 
ardor. One such person deliberately closed the dooř to any possibility of a retům to God by 
saying to his friends and relatives: "If at the hour of death I ask for a priest to hear my 
confession, do not bring him, because I shall be delirious." 

It is useless to try to win these people by persuasion or advice. It will make no impression on 
them and may even produce contrary effects. The only method to be ušed is strictly supematural: 
prayer, fasting, constant recourse to the Blessed Virgin. Their conversion reguires a speciál grace 
from God, and God does not always grant the grace, in špite of many prayers and supplications. 
It is as if these sinners had exhausted the patience of God and are destined to be for all eternity 
the living testimony of rigorous divine justice, because they háve abused divine mercy. 

We conclude with a statement by St. Teresa on the gravity of mortal sin: 

I once heard a spirituál man say that he was not so much astonished at the things doně by 
a soul in mortal sin as at the things not doně by it. May God, in his mercy, deliver us 
from such great evil, for there is nothing in the whole of our lives that so thoroughly 
deserves to be called evil as this, since it brings endless and eternal evils in its train.(6) 

Venial Sin 

As distinct from mortal sin, venial sin consists in a simple deviation and not a total aversion from 
the ultimate end. It is a sickness, but not unto death. The sinner who commits a mortal sin is like 
the traveler who turns his back on the goal and begins to travel in the opposite direction. But the 
person who commits a venial sin merely departs from the straight path without abandoning the 

joumey toward the goal. 

We can distinguish three classes of venial sins: (1) those that by their very nature involve a 
disorder or deviation, although only a slight one, such as a small lie that does no damage to 
anyone; (2) those that because of the smallness ofthe matter involved, constitute only a light 
disorder, such as stealing a small amount of money; (3) those that lack complete deliberation or 
full consent ofthe will in matters that would otherwise be serious sins, such as the taking of 

There is a great difference between the malice of a mortal sin and that of a venial sin, but venial 
sin does constitute a true offense against God. St. Teresa says in this regard: 

From any sin, however small, committed with full knowledge, may God deliverus, 
especially since we are sinning against so great a Sovereign and realize that he is 
watching us. That seems to me to be a sin of malice aforethought; it is as though one 
were to say: "Lord, although this displeases thee, I shall do it. I know that thou seest it 
and I know that thou wouldst not háve me do it; but although I understand this, I would 
rather follow my own whim and desire than thy will." If we commit a sin in this way, 
however slight, it seems to me that our offense is not small but very, very qreat.(7) 

Nevertheless, it is necessary to distinguish between venial sins committed out of weakness, 
surprise, or lack of advertence and deliberation, and those that are committed coldly and with the 
complete awareness that one thereby displeases God. We can nevěr completely avoid the former, 
and God, who knows very well the clay of which we are made, readily forgives us these sins of 
weakness. The only thing that one can do about these faults is to try to diminish their number so 
far as possible and to avoid discouragement. St. Francis de Sales says in this respect: 

Although it is reasonable to feel discouragement and to be sorry for having committed 
any faults, this discouragement should not be sour, angry, acrimonious, or choleric; and 
this is the great defect of those who, seeing themselves angry, become impatient with 
their own impatience and become angry at their own anger .... 

Just as the sweet and cordial reproaches of a father make more of an impression on a son 
than his rage and anger, so also, if we reproach our heart when it commits some fault 
with sweet and peaceful reproaches, using more compassion than anger and arousing the 
heart to amend, we shall succeed in arousing a repentance which is much more profound 
and penetrating than that which could be aroused with resentment, anger, and anxiety .... 
Nevertheless, detest with all your heart the offense which you háve committed against 
God and, filled with courage and confidence in his mercy, begin again the practice of that 
virtue which you háve abandoned.(8) 

If one acts in this way, reacting promptly against the faults of weakness with a profound 
repentance full of meekness, humility, and confidence in the mercy of God, these weaknesses 
will leave scarcely any trace in the soul, and they will not constitute a serious obstacle in the path 
of our sanctification. But when venial sins are committed coldly, with perfect deliberation and 
advertence, they constitute an obstacle to perfection. The French Jesuit Louis Lallemant says: 

One is astonished to see so many religious who, after having lived fořty or fifty years in the statě 
of grace, ... and, consequently, possessing all the gifts of the Holý Spirit in a very high 

degree-one is astonished, I say, to see ťhat ... their life is completely natural; that, when they are 
corrected or when they are discouraged, they show their resentment; that they show so much 
concern for the praise, the esteem, and the applause of the world; that they delight in it, and they 
love and seek its comfort and everything that will appeal to their šelf- love. 

There is no reason to be astonished. The venial sins which they commit continuously bind the 
gifts of the Holý Spirit, and it is no wonder that the effects of the gifts are not evident in them. It 
is trne that these gifts grow together with charity habitually and in their physical being, but they 
do not grow actually and in the perfection which corresponds to the fervor of charity and 
increases merit in us, because venial sins, being opposed to the fervor of charity, impede the 
operation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit. 

If these religious would strive for purity of heart, the fervor of charity would increase in them 
more and more and the gifts of the Holý Spirit shine forth in their conduct; but this will nevěr be 
very apparent in them, living as they do without recollection, without attention to their interior 
life, letting themselves be led and guided by their inclinations, and avoiding only the more grave 
sins while being careless about little things.Q) 

Venial sin has four effects that are especially detrimental to the spirituál life: 

1. It deprives us of many actual graces that G od would otherwise háve given us. This privation 
sometimes results in our falling into a temptation that we could háve avoided by means of that 
actual grace of which we were deprived. At other times it may result in the loss of a new advance 
in the spirituál life. Only in the light of etemity -- and then there is no remedy -- shall we realize 
what we háve lost as a result of deliberate venial sins. 

2. It lessens the fervor of charity and one's generosity in the service of God. This fervor and 
generosity presuppose a sincere desire for perfection and a constant striving for it, which are 
totaHy incompatible with voluntary venial sin because the latter implies a rejection of the lofty 
ideál and a deliberate halt in the struggle for greater holiness. 

3. It increases the difficulties in the exercise of virtue. This is a result of the two previous effects. 
Deprived of many actual graces that are necessary to keep us on the path of the good, and weak 
in fervor and generosity in the service of God, the soul graduaUy loses more and more of its 
spirituál energy. Virtue appears to be more difficult, the effort reguired for growing in holiness 
becomes more and more demanding, and the experience of past failures disheartens the soul. 

4. It predisposes for mortal sin. This is clearly testified in Scripture when it is stated that he who 
wastes the little he has is gradually stripped bare (Sir. 19:1). Experience confirms that the 
ultimate fall of many souls has been started in this way. Little by little the soul has lowered its 
defenses until the moment arrives in which the enemy, in one furious assault, conguers the city. 

In order to avoid sin and overcome the hábit of venial sin, one should be faithful to the 
examination of conscience, both generál and particular; increase one's spirit of sacrifice; be 
faithful to the practice of prayer; safeguard external and intemal recollection to the extent that 
the duties of one's statě permit; cultivate a filial devotion to Mary; and remember the example of 
the saints. It is not an easy task to avoid venial sin, but however difficult, it is possible to 
approach that ideál by means of a constant struggle and humble prayer. 


We háve already discussed the theology of imperfections and háve stated our opinion that moral 
imperfection is distinct from venial sin. An act that is good in itself does not cease to be good 
even though it could háve been better. Venial sin, on the other nand, is something intrinsically 
evil, however light an evil it may be. Nevertheless, the imperfections are detrimental to the 
spirituál life and impede the flight of the soul to sanctity. St. John of the Cross treats of this 
matter when he distinguishes between venial sin and imperfection: 

Some habits of voluntary imperfections, which are nevěr completely conguered, prevent 
not only the attainment of divine union but also progress in perfection. 

These habitual imperfections are, for example, a common custom of much speaking, or 
some slight attachment which we nevěr guite wish to conguer .... A single one of these 
imperfections, if the soul has become attached and habituated to it, is of as great harm to 
growth and progress in virtue as though one were to fall daily into a great number of 
other imperfections and casual venial sins .... 

For as long as it has this, there is no possibility that it will make progress in perfection, 
even though the imperfection be extremely slight. For it comes to the samé thing whether 
a bird be held by a slender cord or by a stout one since, even if it be slender, the bird will 
be as well held as though it were stout, for so long as it breaks it not and flies not away. It 
is true that the slender one is the easier to break; stáli, easy though it be, the bird will not 
fly away if it be not broken. And thus the soul that has attachment to anything, however 
much virtue it possesses, will not attain to the liberty of divine union." (10) 

This doctrine finds confirmation in the Thomistic teaching on the increase of habits. According 
to St. Thomas, charity and all the other infused habits increase only by a more intense act that 
flows from an actual grace, itself more intense than the hábit. It follows from this that prayer is 
of extréme importance in this regard, because the only way in which we can obtain actual grace 
is by petition, since it does not fall under merit in the proper sense of the word. Now 
imperfection is by its very nature a remiss act or the voluntary negation of a more intense act. 
Conseguently, it is impossible to proceed in perfection if one does not renounce habitual 
voluntary imperfections. 

This is the reason why in practice so many potential saints are frustrated and why there are so 
few true saints. Many souls live habitually in the grace of God, nevěr commit mortal sins, and 
even exert every effort to avoid venial sins. Nevertheless, they remain for many years in the 
samé statě and make no progress in holiness. How can we explain this phenomenon? The answer 
is that they háve not endeavored to root out their voluntary imperfections; they háve not tried to 
break that slender cord that .keeps them tied to the earth and prevents them from rising in flight 
to the heights. 

It is therefore necessary to wage an unceasing battle against our voluntary imperfections if we 
wish to arrive at perfect union with God. The soul must tend always toward greater perfection 
and try to do all things with the greatest possible intensity. Naturally, we do not mean that one 
should be in a statě of constant tension. We are referring primarily to the perfection of one's 
motives that lead one to act: doing all things with the greatest possible purity of intention, with 

ťhe greatest possible desire of glorifying God, with total abandonment to God so that the Holý 
Spirit can také complete control of our soul and do with us as he wishes. Our goal is complete 
transformation in Christ, which will enable us to say with St. Paul: "The life I live now is not my 
own; Christ is living in me" (Gal. 2:20). 


According to St. Thomas, the proper office of the devil is to tempt.{ll] Nevertheless, he 
immediately adds that not all temptations that we suffer proceed from the devil. Some of them 
are the result of our own concupiscence, as St. James says: "The tug and lure of his own passion 
tempt every man" (James 1:14). It is trne, however, that many temptations do proceed from the 
devil. St. Peter compares the devil to a roaring lion who goes about, seeking someone to devour 
(1 Pet. 5:8). 

St. James teaches that God nevěr tempts anyone by inciting him to evil (James 1:13). When 
Scripture speaks of temptations from God, it uses the word to designate a simple test of a person. 
God permits us to be tempted by our spirituál enemies to give us an occasion for greater merit. 
A s St. Paul says: "Y ou can trust G od not to let you be tried beyond your strength, and with any 
trial he will give you a way out of it and the strength to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13). 

There are countless advantages to a temptation that has been conguered with the help and grace 
of God. Victory over temptation humiliates Satan, makes the glory of God shine forth, purifies 
our soul, fills us with humility, repentance, and confidence in the divine assistance. It reminds us 
to be always vigilant and alert, to mistrust ourselves, to expect all things from God, to mortify 
our personál tastes. It arouses us to prayer, helps us grow in experience, and makes us 
circumspect and cautious in the struggle against our enemy. With good reason does St. James 
say: "Happy the man who holds out to the end through trial! Once he has been proved, he will 
receive the crown of life the Lord has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12). But to 
obtain all these advantages, it is necessary to know how to obtain victory with the help of God. 
To this end, it will be of great help to consider the threefold source of temptations: the devil, the 
world, and the flesh. 

The Devil 

Perhaps in no other page of Scripture is the stratégy of the devil as a tempter depicted so clearly 
as in the description of the temptation of Eve, which resulted in the ruin of all humanity. Let us 
examine the biblical account and draw from it some important conclusions. 

Thus he said to the woman: "Did God really telí you not to eat from any of the trees in the 
garden?" (Gen. 3:1). As yet he is not tempting the woman, but the conversation is already in the 
area of the matter he has in mind. His tactics are the samé today as always. To persons 
particularly inclined to sensuality or to doubts against the faith, he will ask in generál terms and 
without as yet inciting them to evil. 

If the soul recognizes that the simple posing of the guestion represents a danger, it will refuse to 
converse with the tempter but will tum its thoughts and imagination to other matters. Then the 
temptation is thwarted, and an easy victory is won. But if the soul imprudently enters into 
conversation with the tempter, it is exposed to the great danger of succumbing. 

This was Eve's mistake; she answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the 
garden; but God said, 'Y ou shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the 
garden, neither shall you touch it, lestyou die' " (Gen. 3:2-3). 

The soul recognizes that God strictly forbids it to perform that action, to arouse that desire, or to 
nourish that thought. The soul does not wish to disobey God, but it is wasting time in recalling its 
moral obligations at all. It could destroy the temptation at the very start, without bothering to 
weigh the reasons why it ought to do so. 

The soul has yielded ground to the enemy, and now the enemy gathers his forces to make a direct 
attack: "But the serpent said to the woman, 'Y ou will not die. For God knows that when you eat 
of ityour eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil 1 " (Gen. 3:4-5). 

The devil presents an enchanting possibility . He would not suggest to our soul that it will be as 
God, but he tells us that the soul will be happy if once more it abandons itself to sin. "In any 
čase," the tempter may add, "God is merciful and will readily forgive you. Enjoy the forbidden 
fruit once again. Do you not remember your past experiences, how great was your enjoyment 
then and how easy it was to depart from sin by immediate repentance?" 

There is still time to withdraw because the will has not yet given its consent, but if the soul does 
not terminate this conversation, it is in the proximate danger of falling. Its forces are gradually 
being weakened, and sin is presented as more and more desirable and fascinating. 

"The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining 
wisdom" (Gen. 3:6). The soul begins to vacillate and to be deeply disturbed. It does not wish to 
offend God, but the temptation is so alluring that a struggle ensues and sometimes is prolonged 
for a long period of time. If the soul, in its supreme effort and under the influence of an actual 
grace, decides to remain faithful to its duty, it will be victorious; but only too often a soul that 
vacillates to this extent will také the fatal step to sin. 

"So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with 
her, and he ate it" (Gen. 3:6). The soul has succumbed to the temptation. It has committed sin, 
and often, either because of scandal or complicity, it has caused others to sin. 

As soon as the sin is committed, the soul realizes the great deception: "Then the eyes of both of 
them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and 
made loincloths for themselves" (Gen. 3:7). The soul is now aware of the fact that it has lost 
everything. It stands completely naked before God, without sanctifying grace, without the 
infused virtues, without the gifts of the Holý Spirit, without the indwelling of the Trinity . It has 
lost all the merits that it has ever acguired during its whole life. All that remains is bitter 
deception and the sneering laughter of the tempter. 

Immediately the soul hears the terrible voice of conscience that reproaches it for the sin that has 
been committed. "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the 
day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees 
of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, 'Where are you? 1 " (Gen. 
3:8-9). This guestion, which the sinneťs conscience also formulates, has no answer. The only 
thing the sinner can do is fall to his knees and ask pardon of God for his infidelity, and leam 
from sad experience how in the future to resist the tempter from the very first moment, when 

victory is easy and triumph is assured under the loving gáze of God. 

Let us now investigate what the soul ought to do before, during, and after temptation. The 
fundamental stratégy for preventing temptation was suggested by our Lord when he told the 
disciples to watch and pray lestthey enter into temptation (Matt. 26:41). Vigilance and prayer 
are necessary even before temptations arise. 

Vigilance is necessary because the devil nevěr completely abdicates in his battle to win our soul. 
If sometimes he seems to leave us in peace, it is only to return to the attack when we least expect 
it. During periods of calm we must be convinced that the battle will be resumed and perhaps with 
greater intensity than before. Therefore, we must be vigilant lest we be taken by surprise. We do 
this by avoiding the occasions of sin, by trying to anticipate unexpected assaults, by practicing 
self-control, by making use of the particular examen, by freguently renewing our firm resolution 
nevěr to sin again, and by avoiding sloth. 

But vigilance alone is not enough. To remain in the statě of grace and to be victorious against all 
temptations reguire an efficacious grace from God, obtainable only through prayer. The most 
careful vigilance and the most earnest efforts would be totally inefficacious without the help of 
Goďs grace. But with his grace, victory is certain. God has given us his word that he will grant 
us grace if we ask for it with prayer that fulfills the necessary conditions. This shows how 
important is the prayer of petition. Christ taught us to ask the Fathen "Lead us not into 
temptation." It is also reasonable that we should invoke the Blessed Mother, who crushed the 
serpenťs head with her virginal heel; and our guardian angel, who has as one of his principál 
duties to defend us against the assaults of the devil. 

During temptation the conduct of the soul can be summarized in one important word: resist. It 
does not suffice merely to remain passive in the face of temptation; positive resistance is 
necessary. This resistance can be either direct or indirect. Direct resistance is that which faces up 
to the temptation itself and conguers it by doing the precise opposite from that which is 
suggested. For example, to begin to speak well of a person when we are tempted to criticize him, 
to give a generous alms when our selfishness would prompt us to refuse, to prolong our prayer 
when the devil suggests that we shorten it or abandon it altogether. Direct resistance can be ušed 
against any kind of temptation, except those against faith or purity, as we shall see now. 

Indirect resistance does not attack the temptation but withdraws from it by distracting the mind 
to some other object that is completely distinct. This is the type of resistance to be ušed in 
temptations against the faith or against purity, because in these cases a direct attack would very 
likely increase the intensity of the temptation itself. The best practice in these cases is a rapid but 
calm practice of a mental exercise that will absorb our intemal faculties, especially the memory 
and imagination, and withdraw them from the object of the temptation. It is also helpful to háve 
some hobby or pastime or activity that is interesting enough to absorb one's attention for the 

Sometimes the temptation does not immediately disappear, and the devil may attack again with 
great tenacity. One should not become discouraged at this. The insistence of the devil is one of 
the best proofs that the soul has not succumbed to the temptation. The soul should resist the 
attacks as often as necessary but always with great serenity and interior peace, being careful to 
avoid any kind of anxiety or disturbance. Every assault repulsed is a source of new merit before 

God and greater strength for tne soul. Far from becoming weakened, the soul gains new energies. 
Seeing that he has lost, the devil will finally leave the soul in peace, especially when he sees that 
he has not been able to disturb the interior peace of the soul, which sometimes is the only reason 
he caused the temptation in the first pláce. 

It is also helpful to manifest these things to one's spirituál director or confessor, especially if it is 
a guestion of tenacious temptations or those that occur repeatedly. The Lord usually recompenses 
this act of humility and simplicity with new and powerful helps. The masters of the spirituál life 
say: "A temptation that is declared is already half conguered." 

If the soul has conguered and is certain of it, it has doně so only with the help of Goďs grace. It 
should therefore give thanks and ask for a continuation of divine help on other occasions. This 
could be said very briefly and simply, as in the following short prayer: "Thanks be to you, O 
God; continue to help me on all dangerous occasions and háve mercy on me." 

If the soul has fallen and has no doubt about it, it should not become disheartened. It should 
remember the infinite mercy of God and the lesson of the prodigal son, and then cast itself in all 
humility and repentance into the arms of the heavenly Father, asking him for forgiveness and 
promising with his help nevěr to sin again. If the fall has been serious, the soul should not be 
content with a simple act of contrition, but should approach the sacrament of reconciliation and 
use this sad experience of sin to redouble its vigilance and to intensify its fervor in order not to 
sin again. 

If the soul remains in doubt as to whether or not it has given consent, it should not examine its 
conscience minutely and with scrupulosity, for this may provoke the temptation anew and even 
increase the danger of falling. Sometimes it is better to let a certain period of time pass until the 
soul becomes more tranguil, and then examine one's conscience carefully as to whether or not sin 
has been committed. In any event, it is well to make an act of contrition and to make known to 
the confessor at the proper time the temptation that has been encountered, admitting one's guilt 
as it appears in the sight of G od. 

What should be doně, however, in the čase of those persons who receive Communion daily? 
May they continue to receive Communion until the day of their confession, even if they are in 
doubt as to whether they háve consented to a temptation? 

It is impossible to give a categorical answer that will apply to all souls and to all possible 
circumstances. For example, if the habitual attitude of a soul is to avoid sin, or if the soul has a 
tendency to scrupulosity, the person should continue to receive Communion, ignore the doubts, 
and make an act of contrition for any guilt that could háve been incurred. If, on the other nand, it 
is a guestion of a soul that is accustomed to fall readily into mortal sin, or of a lax conscience 
that is in no way scrupulous, the presumption is against the soul, and it is probable that the soul 
has consented to the temptation. Then one should not receive Communion without sacramental 

The World 

As they came from the hands of the Creator, the world and all things in it were good. At each 
new phase of the six stages of creation recorded in Genesis we are told that God looked upon 
what he had made and he saw that it was good. Therefore, the world as such is no obstacle to 

sanctification and salvation. It all depends on how we react to the things of the world and the 
manner in which we use them -- which can be for good or for evil. Many Christians who lived in 
the world and were very much a part of the world became great saints. The world becomes an 
enemy of the Christian only when we become so attached to the things of the world that we fail 
to advance in the love and service of God. In such cases, the world becomes a source of almost 
irresistible temptation and a formidable enemy of the spirituál life. 

When we speak of the world as an enemy of Christians and an obstacle to sanctification, we are 
referring to the worldly or mundane spirit manifested by those who háve an excessive attachment 
to created things. Entire cities or nations can be infected with a mundane spirit living only for 
the pleasures and satisfactions that can be drawn from creature things. This environment presents 
a great obstacle to the Christian who is in eamest about making progress in holiness through 
detachment and the positive practice of virtue. 

The worldly spirit is generally manifested in four principál ways. The first and most deceptive is 
that of the falše maxims directly opposed to the precepts of Christ. The world exalts pleasure, 
comfort, riches, fame, violence, and might. It advises its followers to enjoy life while they can, to 
make the most of what the world has to offer, to find security and the maximum bodily comfort. 
So far has this perversion of values been carried that thieves are considered to be efficient and 
adept in business; agnostics or atheists are people who think for themselves; persons who reject 
all authority and objective morality are champions of personál freedom; and people of loose 
morals are considered sophisticated and mature. 

The second manifestation of the mundane spirit is found in the ridicule and persecution of those 
who strive to live honestly and decently. Sensate people declare themselves free of all moral 
restrictions and live as they please, and they make a mockery of any authority or law that would 
guide people along the path of self-control and obedience. Not wanting to observe the law 
themselves, they cultivate a speciál disdain for those who honestly strive to lead good lives. 

The third manifestation of a worldly spirit is found in the pleasures and diversions of those who 
observe no control in regard to their lower appetites. Excesses in sex and in the use of drugs, 
alcoholic drinks, and food are accepted as being in good taste socially. The theater, magazines, 
and other media of entertainment know no restriction except the strong arm of the law or the 
startled indignation of the public. The abnormal becomes normál in the lives of these persons. 

The fourth mark of a mundane spirit is the scandal and bad example that confront the earnest 
Christian at every turn. It is. not a guestion merely of persons who give scandal by their evil 
lives, but what is even worse, scandal is sometimes given by those who, because of their 
Christian belief or statě in life, should be examples of virtue. With good reason could St. John 
complain that "the whole world is under the evil one" (1 John 5:19). And Jesus himself wamed: 
"Woe to that man through whom scandal comes!" (Matt. 18:7). 

The most efficacious remedy against the influence of the world and worldly persons is to flee, 
but since the majority of Christians must live in the world and still pursue Christian perfection, it 
is necessary that they strive to acguire the mind and spirit of Christ, who also lived in the world 
but was opposed to its spirit. 

Avoid Occasions of Sin. "He who loves danger will perish in it." Whether it be a guestion of 

worldly possessions, mundane pleasures, orcreature attachments, Christians mustkeep 
ťhemselves from temptation. The occasions that are sinful for one may not be so for another, and 
for that reason it is difficult to make any universal laws in this matter. 

Nevertheless, some occasions are so poisonous thatthey would be harmful to any Christian. As 
for the rest each of us must learn by experience where our weaknesses lie and then také the 
necessary steps by way of self-denial and self-control. And when in doubt, honest Christians will 
base their practical judgment on whether or not the occasion in question would be dangerous for 
the average good Christian. If so, they also should avoid it. Still another rule of thumb is simply 
to ask oneself : " What would Jesus do?" It is likewise helpful to remember the admonition of St. 
Paul, to the effect that not all things that are lawful are prudent. 

Vivify One's Faiťh. St. John says: "This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith" (1 
John 5:4). Faith is an intellectual assent to certain dogmas and mysteries; when it is perfected it 
gives us an attitude of mind or a way of judging things in a divine manner. It enables us to see 
things through the eyes of God, so to speak. A strong faith will enable the Christian to see God in 
all things and to walk through great dangers unharmed because he is able to rise above those 
things that are temptations for others. A strong faith will enable the Christian to withstand the 
taunts and ridicule of worldly persons. In many works of art the martyred saint is surrounded by 
persecutors who wear a cynical smile or a leer on their faces. But the saint remains steadfast and 
tranquil amidst all manner of attack and suffering because the eyes of his soul, through the light 
of faith, can peer into eternity and be focused on the divine. 

Meditate on the Vanity of the World. The world passes quickly, and life passes even more 
quickly. There is nothing stable and permanent in the worlďs judgment and friendships; there is 
nothing completely satisfying in its delights. Those who are applauded today are criticized 
tomorrow; the evil prosper, for they háve their reward in this world. But Christians, who realize 
that they háve not here a lasting city but are travelers to the etemal fatherland, know that only 
God is changeless and only his justice and truth will remain forever. For that reason, only those 
who do the will of God "abide forever" (1 John 2:17). 

Ignore What the World Thinks. To be concerned about "what they will say" is an. attitude 
unworthy of a Christian. Jesus said explicitly that he would děny before his heavenly Father 
anyone who denies him before men (Matt. 10:33). It is therefore necessary for the Christian to 
také a firm stand in this matter and to follow the injunction of Christ to the letter: "He who is not 
with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30). And St. Paul wams that he is not a disciple of Christ who 
would be concerned about pleasing men (Gal. 1:10). 

One who desires to reach sanctity must be absolutely indifferent to what the world may think or 
say. One's only concern must be to do the will of God, cost what it may. And it is best to make 
this decision from the very first, so that all may know at the outset where one stands. We háve 
been wamed by Christ that the world will hatě and persecute us (John 15:18-20), but if the world 
sees that we stand firm in our decision to follow Christ and his laws, it will ultimately leave us in 
peace and consider the battle lost. The best way to conquer the world is not to yield a single 
páce, but to také an unswerving stand in renouncing its falše maxims and its vanities. 

The Flesh 

The world and ťhe devil are our principál extemal enemies, but we bear within ourselves an 
internal enemy ťhat can be much more terrible. The world can be conquered with relative ease by 
disdaining its pomps and vanity; the devil cannot withstand the supematural power of a little 
holý water; but our flesh wars against us without ceasing. It wages war against us in two distinct 
manners: by its instinctive horror of suffering and by its insatiable desire for pleasure. The first is 
an obstacle to sanctification; the second can compromise our eternal salvation. It is therefore 
essential to know how to counteract and nullify those two dangerous tendencies. 

Desire for Pleasure 

We shall begin with the latter, which is a characteristic tendency of our sensuality, while the 
horror of suffering is a logical . consequence and the negative aspect of this desire. We flee from 
pain because we love pleasure, and the tendency to pleasure is what is known as concupiscence. 

Sensate bodily pleasure is not evil of itself . As the author of nature, God has placed pleasure in 
the exercise of certain natural operations, and especially those that pertain to the conservation of 
the individual and of the species. He does this in order to facilitate the use of those faculties and 
to stimulate us to their exercise. But as a result of originál sin the appetite for pleasure often rises 
against the demands of reason and impels us to sin. St. Paul has described vividly the combat 
between the flesh and the spirit that all of us háve to wage against ourselves in order to subject 
our bodily instincts to the control of reason illumined by faith (Rom. 7:14-25; 1 Cor. 12:1-7). 

A difficulty arises in attempting to designate the boundary that separates honest pleasure from 
disordered and forbidden pleasure, and how to keep oneself within the boundaries of the former. 
The enjoyment of lawful pleasures frequently becomes an occasion or incentive to disordered 
and unlawful pleasures. For that reason, Christian mortification has always advocated that one 
deprive oneself of many lawful things and of many honest pleasures, not to put sin where there is 
no sin, but as a defense of good, which is endangered if one imprudently approaches the 
borderline of evil. 

The satisfactions granted to one sense awaken the appetite of other senses. The reason for this is 
that sense pleasure is diffused throughout the entire body, and when one or another of the senses 
is stimulated, the whole organism vibrates. This is particularly true of the sense of touch, which 
is present in every part of the body and tends to animal pleasure with a much greater intensity 
than the other senses. 

The principál struggle revolves around the two tendencies that are necessary for the conservation 
of the individual and of the species: nutrition and generation. The other sensitive inclinations are 
almost always placed at the service of these two, in which concupiscence seeks pleasure without 
any concern for the conservation of the individual and the species. If reason does not intervene to 
keep these instinctive appetites within just limits, they can easily lead to the ruin of the 
individual and the species. 

It is incredible how much harm an unmortified appetite can cause in us, not .only as regards 
perfection, which is absolutely impossible without mortification, but even as regards our etemal 
salvation. Sensual people not only are not united with God, but they also lose the taste for divine 
things, as St. Paul teaches (1 Cor. 2:14). 

Reason itself suggests certain remedies that are useful in controlling sensuality, but the most 

efficacious remedies proceed from faith and are strictly supematural. The following are the 
principál remedies, both natural and supematural: „ 

Custody of the Senses. This is the most important and decisive of all the purely natural 
remedies. Even the strongest will is likely to succumb when subjected to the stimulation of the 
senses. Sincere resolutions and unswerving determination are of no avail; everything is lost in 
the face of the fascination of an occasion of sin. The senses are aroused, the imagination is 
excited, passion is strongly stirred, self-control is lost and the fatal fall takés pláce. It is 
especially necessary that one exercise scrupulous vigilance over the sense of vision, according to 
the axiom: "What the eyes do not see, the heart does not desire." 

Self-denial. Another precaution that must be taken in the struggle against sensuality is that of 
nevěr going to the limit in regard to satisfactions that are permitted. This reguires self-denial, and 
sometimes even in regard to lawful pleasures, especially if one is inclined to sensate 
satisfactions. With good reason does Clement of Alexandria say that those who do everything 
that is permitted will very readily do that which is not permitted. On the other nand, the 
mortification of one's tastes and desires will not damage one's health; rather it will usually 
benefit both body and soul. If we wish to keep ourselves far from sin and walk toward perfection 
in giant strides, it is necessary to reject a great number of sensate satisfactions. 

Beneficial Occupation. The seed of sensuality finds fertile ground in a soul that is unoccupied 
and slothful. Sloth is the mother of all vices, as we read in Scripture, but in a speciál way it is 
fertile ground for sins of the flesh. Those who wish to preserve themselves from the demands of 
concupiscence must endeavor to keep themselves occupied in some useful and beneficial 
exercise. And of all occupations, those of an intellectual type are particularly apt for controlling 
sensuality. The reason is that the application of one faculty weakens the exercise of the other 
faculties, in addition to the fact that intellectual operations withdraw from the sensual passions 
the object on which they feed. The sins of the flesh weaken the spirit, whereas temperance and 
chastity admirably predispose one for intellectual work. 

Sense of Christian Dignity. Because of our rational nature we are far superior to the animal. It 
is debasing, then, to let ourselves be carried away by the sensuality that we share in common 
with beasts. And far superior to our human dignity in the natural order is our Christian dignity, 
which is strictly supematural. Through grace we are elevated in a certain manner to the level of 
divinity. We share in the nature and life of God, and this makes us Goďs children by adoption. 
So long as we remain in this statě we are heirs of heaven by proper right (Rom. 8:17). 

For that reason, St. Thomas states that the supematural good of an individual soul, proceeding as 
it does from sanctifying grace, is of more value than the natural good of the entire universe. (12) 
St. Paul found no other argument of greater force than this one to lead the early Christians from 
the disorders of the flesh: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I 
therefore také the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? ... Do you not 
know that your body is a temple of the Holý Spirit within you, which you háve from God? You 
are not your own; you were boughtwith a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:15, 

C onsideration of Sin's Punishment. If the previous remedies for sensuality make no impression 
on persons habituated to sin, perhaps other correctives will make an impact. The first of these is 

ťhe consideration. of the punishment of hell. Sacred Scripture offers abundant examples. The 
psalmist asks God to make the fear of his judgment penetrate into his flesh so that he will remain 
faithful to Goďs commandments (Ps. 118:120). 

Against the impulse of the flesh in pursuit of pleasure, the thought of the toraients of hell can 
serve as an effective deterrent. And even if a person repents of sin and obtains forgiveness, there 
still remains the debt of temporal punishment that must be paid either in this life with penance, or 
in the next life with the pain of purgatory. In either čase, the suffering that will háve to be 
endured far exceeds the pleasure that the individual enjoyed in sinning. From this point of view 
alone it is a very poor exchange. 

Remembrance of the Passion of Christ. Motives inspired by love and gratitude are much 
nobler than those that originate in fear. Jesus was nailed to the Cross because of our sins. B asic 
gratitude toward the Redeemer ought to help keep us from sin. The consideration of the suffering 
Savior ought to make us ashamed of seeking our bodily delight. St. Paul insists on this argument 
and makes mortification of the flesh the decisive proof of truly belonging to Christ (Gal. 5:24). 
And St. Peter reminds us that since Christ suffered in the flesh, it is necessary to break with sin 

Humble and Persevering Prayer. Without the grace of God it is impossible to triumph 
completely over our concupiscence. This grace is promised to prayer that fulfills the reguired 
conditions, as is evident from the teaching of Sacred Scripture. The author of the Book of 
Wisdom acknowledges that he cannot remain continent without the help of God, which he 
implores with humility (Wis. 8:21). Sirach begs to be preserved from concupiscence and lustful 
desires (Sir. 23:6). 

Devotion to Mary. The Immaculate Virgin Mary is also the Mediatrix of all graces and the 
refuge of sinners. A tender devotion to our Blessed Mother can be a constant reminder to live a 
life of virtue, and it can be a basis for hope in her matemal protection. 

Reception of the Sacraments. This is a certain and efficacious remedy against all types of sin, 
but especially against the attacks of concupiscence. The sacrament of penance not only erases 
our past sins but also gives us strength to protéct ourselves from future sins. The soul that is 
habituated to sins of the flesh should approach this fountain of purification and should regulate 
the freguency of confession according to the strength it needs in order not to fall again. The 
practice of waiting until one has fallen and then to approach confession simply to rise again is a 
mistaken one, because in this way the individual will nevěr completely uproot the vicious hábit. 
Rather, the hábit will become more deeply rooted by the repetition of acts. 

It is necessary to anticipate possible falls and to approach the sacrament of penance when we 
notě that we are weakening and are losing strength. In this way we can regain strength and 
thereby avoid the fall that threatened us. It will also prove helpful to háve a definite confessor to 
whom we can reveal our soul completely and from whom we can receive the necessary advice. 
Giving an account of the soul to a particular confessor will bind the wings of our imagination 
and will act as a brake on the impetus of the passions. 

Holý Communion has a supreme efficacy against the concupiscence of the flesh. Our Lord 
diffuses over us the graces of fortitude and resistance against the power of the passions. His most 

pure flesh is placed in contact with our sinful flesh to spiritualize it. It is not in vain that the 
Eucharist has been called the Bread of Angels. The young especially need this divine remedy to 
counteract the ardor of their passions. Experience in the direction of souls shows clearly that 
there is nothing so powerful and efficacious for keeping a young person in temperance and 
chastity as daily or freguent Communion. 

Horror o f Suffering 

While the desire for pleasure is a great obstacle to our etemal salvation, the horror of suffering is 
a great impediment to sanctification. Many souls who halt along the way to perfection do so 
because they háve not dominated their dread of suffering. Only those who háve determined to 
combat this tendency with an unswerving energy will arrive at the height of sanctity. This, says 
St. Teresa, is an absolutely indispensable condition for reaching perfection. Those who do not 
háve the spirit for this can renounce sanctity, because they will nevěr reach it. St. John of the 
Cross gives to the love of suffering an exceptional importance in the process of our 
sanctification, both to make amends for sin and for the sanctification of the soul. 

As regards reparation, the balance of divine justice, which has been disturbed by originál sin and 
was reestablished by the blood of Christ, is again disturbed by actual sins. Actual or personál sin 
places the weight of pleasure on the scale of justice, for every sin carries with it some pleasure or 
satisfaction. It is therefore necessary that the eguilibrium of divine justice be reestablished by the 
weight of sorrow placed on the other scale. 

The principál reparation was effected by Chrisťs sorrowful passion and death, whose infinite 
value is applied to us by the sacraments; but we Christians, as members of Christ, cannot 
separate ourselves from the divine Head. Something is lacking to the passion of Christ, as St. 
Paul dared to say (Col. 1:24), which must be contributed by the members of Christ cooperating 
in their own redemption. Sacramental absolution does not free us from all the guilt of 
punishment due to our sins, except in the čase of perfect sorrow, and therefore it is necessary to 
pay back either in this life or in the next unto the last farthing (Matt. 5:26). 

Sanctification consists in the ever more intense incorporation with Christ. When all is said and 
doně, the saints are faithful reproductions of Christ; they are another Christ. Now the way to 
unitě ourselves with Christ and to be transformed in him was traced for us by Christ himself. "If 
anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself. and také up his cross and 
follow me" (Matt. 16:24). There is no other way; it is necessary to embrace suffering, to také up 
one's cross, and to follow Christ to the height of Calvary; not to see there how they crucified 
him, but to be crucified at his side. There is no sanctification without crucifixion with Christ. St. 
John of the Cross was so convinced of this that he wrote the following strong words: "If at any 
time, my brother, anyone should persuade you, be he a preláte or not, of a doctrine that is wider 
and more pleasant, do not believe him, and do not accept the doctrine even if he were to confirm 
it with miracles, but rather penance and more penance and detachment from all things. And 
nevěr, if you wish to possess Christ, seek him without the cross." 

The excellence of Christian suffering is evident from a consideration of the great benefits it 
brings to the soul. If well considered, sorrow and suffering ought to be more attractive to the 
Christian than pleasure is to the pagan. The suffering passes, but that one has suffered well will 
nevěr pass; it leaves its mark for all eternity. 

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "I treat my body nard and make it obey me" (1 Cor. 9:27). The 
flesh tends to dominate the spirit. Only by means of privations can we reverse the order and 
make the flesh serve the soul. The more comforts and pleasures we give to the body, the more 
demanding the body becomes. 

There is nothing that more readily detaches us from created things than the pains of suffering. 
Through the crystal of our tears the atmosphere of this world appears dark and gloomy. The soul 
raises its eyes to heaven, it sighs for the etemal fatherland, and it learns to disdain the things of 
this world. 

God nevěr ignores the tears and sighs of a heart that is afflicted with sorrow and suffering. 
Omnipotent and infinitely happy in himself, he can be .overcome by the weakness of one. who 
suffers. He himself declares that he does not know how to refuse those, who come to him with 
tearful. eyes. Jesus worked the stupendous miracle of raising the dead to life because he was 
moved by the tears of a widow who mourned the death of her only son (Luke 7:11-17), of a 
father at the corpse of his daughter (Matt. 9:18-26), and of two sisters who were desolate at the 
death of their brother (John 11:1-44). And he proclaimed those .blessed who weep and mourn 
because they shall be comforted (Matt. 5:5). 

One of the most tremendous marvels of the economy of divine grace is the intimate solidarity of 
all people through the Mystical Body of Christ. God accepts the suffering offered to him by a 
soul in grace for the salvation of another soul or for sinners in generál. It is impossible to 
measure the redemptive power of suffering offered to divine justice with a living faith and an 
ardent love through the wounds of Christ. When everything else fails, there is still recourse to 
suffering to obtain the salvation of a sinful soul. The Curé of Ars said once to a priest who 
lamented the coldness of his parishioners and the sterility of his zeal: "Háve you preached? Háve 
you prayed? Háve you fasted? Háve you taken the disciplině? Háve you slept on boards? Until 
you háve doně these things, you háve no right to complain." 

The supreme excellence of Christian suffering is that suffering souls are configured with Christ 
in his sufferings and in his death (Phil. 3:10). And at the side of Jesus, the Redeemer, stands 
Mary, the co-Redemptrix of the human race. Souls enamored of Mary feel a particular 
inclination to accompany her and to imitate her in her ineffable sorrow. Before the Queen of 
Martyrs they feel ashamed that they háve ever thought of their own comfort and pleasure. They 
know that, if they wish to be like Mary, they must embrace the Cross. 

We should notě the speciál sanctifying efficacy of suffering from this last point of view. 
Suffering configures us with Christ in a perfect manner; and sanctity does not consist in anything 
else but configuration with Christ. There is not, nor can there be, any way to sanctity that ignores 
or gives little importance to the crucifixion of šelf. It is simply a guestion of repeating what St. 
Paul says to the Galatians: "If we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel not in 
accord with the one we delivered to you, let a curse be upon him" (Gal. 1:8). 

This is one of the principál reasons why there are so few saints. Many souls who strive for 
sanctity do not wish to enter upon the way of suffering. They would like to be saints, but with a 
sanctity that is comfortable and easy. And when God tests them with some painful affliction of 
spirit or persecutions and calumny or any other cross that, if well carried, would lead them to the 
heights of sanctity, they draw back and abandon the way of perfection. Perhaps they háve even 

reached ťhe point where they asked God to send them some cross, but it is evident that what they 
wanted was a cross of their own choosing and, when they did not find it, they considered that 
they had been deceived and gave up the road to perf ection. 

It is therefore necessary to decide once and for all to embrace suffering as God wishes to send it 
to us: sickness, persecution, calumny, humiliation, disappointment-whatever he wishes and in the 
manner he wishes. The attitude of soul must be one of a personál fiat, a total abandonment to 
God without reservě, a complete subj ection to Goďs loving providence so that he may do with 
the soul as he wishes, both in time and in etemity. 

But it is not easy to reach these heights. Freguently, the soul has to advance gradually from one 
step to another until ultimately it acguires a love for the Cross. The following are the principál 
degrees manifested by a soul in its progress toward a thirst for suffering: 

Acceptance of Duties. Nevěr omit any of our duties because of the suffering or difficulty. This 
is the initial grade or degree, and it is absolutely necessary for all. One who neglects a serious 
obligation without any reason other than the inconvenience or slight difficulty involved commits 
a serious sin. But even in the matter of light obligation, it is necessary to perform our duties in 
špite of our natural repugnance for them. Some persons neglect the duties of their statě in life and 
nevertheless ask permission of their confessors to practice certain penances and mortification of 
their own choosing. The exact fulfillment of all our duties and obligations according to our statě 
in life is absolutely indispensable for the crucifixion of šelf. 

Resignation to Crosses. The crosses that God sends us directly or permits to befall us háve a 
great value for sanctification if we know how to accept them with love and resignation as coming 
from the hands of God. These things are utilized by divine providence as instruments of our 
sanctification. St. John of the Cross speaks of this to a religious in his Cautions: 

The first caution is that you should understand that you háve come to the convent only in 
order that others may polish and exercise you. Thus ... it is fitting that you should think 
that all are in the convent to test you, as they truly are; that some háve to polish you by 
words, others by works, others by thoughts against you; and that in all these things you 
must. be subject to them as the statue is to the artist who sculpts it, and the painting to the 
painter. And if you do not observe this, you will nevěr know how to conguer your own 
sensuality and sentimentality, nor will you know how to conduct yourself well with the 
religious in the convent, nor will you ever attain holý peace, nor will you ever free 
yourself from your many evils and defects. 

Voluntary Mortification. More perfect yet is the soul who takés the initiative and, in špite of 
the repugnance that nature feels, advances in the love of suffering by voluntarily practicing 
Christian mortification in its various forms. It is not possible to give a universal rule for all souls 
in this regard. Voluntary mortification will be determined in each čase by the statě and condition 
of the soul being sanctified. In the measure that the soul corresponds more and more with the 
inspiration of the Holý Spirit, he will be more and more demanding, but at the samé time he will 
increase the strength of the soul so that it can accept and carry out these inspirations. It is the 
duty of the spirituál director to watch over the soul and nevěr impose sacrifices beyond the 
strength of the soul. He should also také care lest he limit the soul's desire for immolation and 
oblige it to be retarded, instead of letting it fly on the wings of the eagle. 

Preferring Suffering to Pleasure. However contraiy this may seem to our weak nátuře, tne 
saints succeeded in reaching these heights. A moment arrived in which they felt an instinctive 
horror for anything that would satisfy their tastes and comfort. When everything went badly with 
them and the whole world persecuted and calumniated them, they rejoiced and gave thanks to 
God. If others applauded or praised them, they trembled as if God had permitted those things as 
punishment for their sins. They hardly took any account of themselves at all or of the heroism 
that such an attitude presupposes. They were so familiar with suffering that. it seemed to them 
the most natural thing in the world to endure pain. St. John of the Cross has given us a rule for 
reaching this statě. His words seem severe and are a torment to sensual ears, but it is only at this 
price that one can attain the treasure of sanctity: 

To endeavor always to incline oneself, not to that which is easier, but to that which is 
more difficult; not to that which is tasty, but to that which is more bitter; not to that which 
is more pleasing, but to that which is less pleasing; not to that which gives rest but to that 
which demands effort; not to that which is a consolation, but to that which is a source of 
sorrow; not to that which is more, but to that which is less; not to the lofty and precious, 
but to the lowly and despicable; not to that which is to be something, but to that which is 
to be nothing; not to be seeking the best in temporal things, but the worst, and to desire to 
enter in all nakedness and emptiness and poverty through Christ in whatever there is in 

Offering Oneself as Victim. It would seem that it is impossible to go further in love of the Cross 
than to prefer sorrow to pleasure. Nevertheless, there is still another more perfect degree in the 
love of suffering: the act of offering oneself as a victim of expiation for the sins of the world. At 
the very outset, we must insist that this sublime act is completely above the ordinary way of 
grace. It would be a terrible presumption for a beginner or an imperfectly purified soul to pláce 
itself in this statě. "To be called a victim is easy and it pleases self-love, but truly to be a victim 
demands a purity, a detachment from creatures, and a heroic abandonment to all kinds of 
suffering, to humiliation, to ineffable obscurity, that I would consider it either foolish or 
miraculous if one who is at the beginning of the spirituál life should attempt to do that which the 
divine Master did not do except by degrees." (14) 

The theological basis of offering oneself as a victim of expiation for the salvation of souls or for 
any other supematural motive such as reparation for the glory of God, liberating the souls in 
purgatory, attracting the divine mercy to the Church, the priesthood, one's country, or a particular 
soul, is the supematural solidarity established by God among the members of the Mystical Body 
of Christ, whether actual or potential. Presupposing the solidarity in Christ that is common to all 
Christians, God selects certain holý souls, and particularly those who háve offered themselves 
knowingly for this work, so that by their merits and sacrifices they may contribute to the 
application of the merits of the redemption by Christ. A typical example of this can be found in 
St. Catherine of Siena, whose most ardent desire was to give her life for the Church. "The only 
cause of my death," said the saint, "is my zeal for the Church of God, which devours and 
consumes me. Accept, O Lord, the sacrifices of my life for the Mystical Body of thy holý 
Church." She was also a victim soul for particular individuals. Other examples of victim souls 
are St. Thérese of Lisieux, St. Gemma Galgani, and Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity. 

In practice, the offering of oneself as a victim for souls should nevěr be permitted except to souls 
of whom the Holý Spirit asks it with a persistent and irresistible motion of grace. It should be 

noted that, rather than contributing to the sanctification of the individual (although it does add 
something), this particular act is ordained to the spirituál benefit of others. The soul that would 
give itself in this way for the salvation of others must itself be intimately united with God and 
must háve traveled a long way toward its own perfection in charity. It must be a soul well 
schooled in suffering and even háve a thirst for suffering. Under these conditions the spirituál 
director could prudently permit a soul to make this oblation of šelf as a victim soul. Then, if God 
accepts the offering, the soul can become a faithful reproduction of the divine Martyr of Calvary. 


Cf. GordonW. Allport, Pattern and Growth in Personality (New York: Holt Rinehartand 
Winston, 1961). 

The psychologist Erik Erikson maintains that even in the first critical transition during 
infancy the religious attitude of the mother exerts a lasting influence on the infant and 
especially her practice of prayer. For an excellent application of Eriksohs psychology of 
personality development to the spirituál life, see B. McLaughlin, Nátuře, Grace and 
Religious Development (Westminster, Md.: Newman, 1965). 

Cf. Summa theologiae, I, g. 63, a. 1; I-II, g. 21, a. 1; g. 72, a. 5; g. 74, a. 1; g. 75, aa. 2-3; g. 
77, a. 6. 

Cf. Eugene Malý, Sin (Dayton: Pflaum/Standard, 1973), pp. 27-31, passim. 

Cf. D. Hoffman, Beginnings in Spirituál Life (New York: Doubleday, 1967). pp. 36-38. 
Father Hoffman has written two other works that complete his series: Maturing the Spirit 
(Boston: St Paul, 1973) and The Life Within (New York: Doubleday, 1966). 

St Teresa, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1946), 
First Mansions, Chap. 2. 

The Way of Perfection, Chap. 41. 

St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to theDevout Life, trans. John K. Ryan (New Y ork: 
Doubleday, 1949), Part III, Chap. 9. 

The Spirituál Doctrine of F ather Lallemant (Westminster, Md.: Newman, 1955), Prin. 4, c. 3, 
a. 3. 

St. John of the Cross, TheAscent ofMount Carmel, trans. E. Allison Peers (Westminster, 
Md.: Newman, 1957), Bookl, Chap. 11. 

Cf. Summa theologiae, 1, g. 114, a. 2. 

Ibid., I-II, g. 113, a. 9, ad 2. 

Cf. St. John of the Cross, op. cit, Book I, Chap. 13. 

Words of Mother Marie Thérěse, foundress of the Congregation of Mary Reparatrix, guoted 

by R. Plus in Christ in His Brethren, trans. Ireně Hemaman (London: Burns, Oates & 
Washbourne, 1925). 

Progressive Purgation 

In oráer to arrive at the intimate union with God in which sanctity consists, it is not sufficient to 
win a victory against sin and its principál allies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is also 
necessary to achieve an intense and a profound purification of all the faculties and powers of soul 
and body. The reason is obvious. When a soul begins the journey to holiness, it is already in 
possession of sanctifying grace, without which it could not even begin. The soul has been 
endowed, together with grace, with the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holý Spirit. The 
Trinity dwells in the soul as in a living temple, and the grace of adoption makes the soul an heir 
of heaven for all eternity. 

But, in špite of these graces, the soul is laděn with imperfections and defects. Grace does not of 
itself exclude anything more than mortal sin; it leaves us with all the natural and acguired 
imperfections we had at the moment of our justification. The soul remains subject to every kind 
of temptation, evil inclinations and acguired evil habits; the practice of virtue is therefore 
difficult and arduous. The infused virtues, received with sanctifying grace, give the soul the 
power to perform the corresponding acts, but they do not automatically rid the soul of its 
acguired evil habits or of its natural indispositions to the practice of virtue. These are destroyed 
only by the practice of the acguired virtues. Then, when the supernatural hábit no longer finds 
any resistance or obstacle to its exercise by reason of a contrary hábit, the virtuous act will be 
produced with facility and delight. 

The reason for the resistance and rebellion of our nature against virtue must be. sought ultimately 
in originál sin. That first sin caused a weakening of the natural inclination to good that human 
nature had in the statě of originál justice. From this follows the necessity of a profound 
purification of the faculties in which evil habits and vicious inclinations are rooted. In the 
process of purification God reserves to himself the better part (passive purifications); but, with 
the help of grace, we must do all in our power to rid ourselves of all the impediments to the 
divine action (active purifications). 

Purification of the External Senses 

The purpose of the active purification of the external senses is to restrain their excesses and to 
subject them to the rule of reason illumined by faith. A disciplined human body is an excellent 
instrument for sanctification, but in the present statě of fallen nature it has an almost irresistible 
tendency to anything that can give pleasure to the senses. If it is not subjected, it becomes 
indomitable, and its demands become more and more excessive until it constitutes an obstacle 
incompatible with the spirituál perfection of the soul. St. Paul speaks of the necessity of 
mortifying the body in order to be liberated from its tyranny and to assure one's own salvation: "I 
treat my body hard and make it obey me, for, having been an announcer myself, I should not 
want to be disgualified" (1 Cor. 9:27). In another pláce he says: "Those who belong to Christ 
Jesus háve crucified their flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). St. John of the Cross 
repeats St. Paul's teaching and gives a reason that is intimately connected with the divine union 
to which the soul travels: 

It is necessary to assume one tmth, which is that ťhe sense of the lower part of man, which is that 
whereof we are treating, is not and cannot be capable of knowing or comprehending God as God 
is. So that the eye cannot see him or anything that is like him; neither can the ear hear his voice 
or any sound that resembles it; neither can the sense of smell perceive a perfume so sweet as he; 
neither can the taste detect a savor so sublime and delectable; neither can the touch feel a 
movement so delicate and full of delight, nor aught like to it; neither can his form or any figuře 
that represents him enter into, the thought or imagination. Even as Isaias says: "Eye hath not seen 
him, nor hath ear heard him, neither hath it entered into the heart of man" (Isa. 64:4). 

It would be ; at the least, but vanity to set the rejoicing of the will upon pleasure caused by any of 
these apprehensions, and it would be hindering the power of the will from occupying itself with 
God and from setting its rejoicing upon him alone. This the soul cannot perfectly accomplish, 
except by purging itself and remaining in darkness as to rejoicing of this kind, as also with 
respect to other thinqs.(l) 

Nevertheless, it is necessary to understand this doctrine correctly in order not to draw erroneous 
conclusions. It is not necessary to deprive the senses of their proper objects but only to avoid 
placing one's joy and finál repose in the sensate pleasure these objects arouse without rising to 
God through them. Creatures are, in the words of St. John of the Cross, "mere crumbs or 
fragments which fall from the table of God," (2) but if one can see the vestige or trace of God in 
them, they not only cease to be an obstacle to sanctification, but can be converted into means and 
instruments for growth in the spirituál life. The evil or the disorder lies in resting in creatures as 
if they were our ultimate end, prescinding from their relation to God; but when we enjoy their 
beauty, or the pleasure that they give, and are thereby led to God, they become excellent aids for 
our sanctification. St. John of the Cross explains this doctrine as follows: 

I said advisedly that, if the rejoicing of the will were to rest in any of these things, it would be 
vanity. But when it does not rest in them, but as soon as the will finds pleasure in that which it 
hears, sees, and does, soars upward to rejoice in God, so that its pleasure acts as a motive and 
strengthens it to that end, this is very good. In such a čase not only need the said motions not be 
shunned when they cause this devotion and prayer, but the soul may profit by them and indeed 
should so profit to the end that it may accomplish this holý exercise. For there are souls who are 
greatly moved by objects of sense to seek God. 

I wish, therefore, to propose a test whereby it may be seen when these delights of the senses 
aforementioned are profitable and when they are not. And it is that whenever a person hears 
music and other things, and sees pleasant things, and is conscious of sweet perfumes, or tastes 
things that are delicious, or feels soft touches, if his thought and the affection of his will are at 
once centered upon God and if that thought of God gives him more pleasure than the movement 
of sense which causes it, and savé for that he finds no pleasure in the said movement, this is a 
sign that he is receiving benefit therefrom and that this thing of sense is a help to his spirit. In 
this way such things may be ušed, for then such things of sense subserve the end for which God 
created and gave them, which is that he should be the better loved and known became of 

Mortification or custody of the senses is necessary even in things that are lawful. But here, as in 
all else, it is necessary to observe prudence and equilibrium, without going to extravagant or 
ridiculous extremes. Some of the mortifications practiced by the saints are more to be admired 

ťhan imitated. The two principál means of mortifying the senses are (1) to deprive them of 
anything that may produce unlawful pleasure, and eventually to curtail even lawful pleasure, as 
one's circumstances permit or one's spirituál needs require; (2) to practice positive mortification 
by means of bodily self-denial. 

Mortification is necessary for all, especially for beginners until they succeed in dominating their 
passions. In addition to serving as reparation for past sins, bodily mortifications háve two other 
beneficial uses: immolation of šelf in imitation of Christ and a positive contribution to the 
Mystical Body by means of the apoštoláte of suffering. These two functions of suffering pertain 
to the saints as much as or more than to imperfect souls, for no one is excused from practicing 
bodily mortification in one form or another. St. Vincent de Paul says: "He who has little regard 
for bodily mortification, under the pretext that interior mortifications are much more perfect, 
demonstrates very clearly that he is not mortified either interiorly or exteriorly."(4) 

However, one should proceed prudently and slowly, increasing the exercises of penance as the 
powers of the soul increase and as the interior invitations of grace urge one on more and more. 
Especially at the beginning, one should avoid any kind of severe bodily penance. It must nevěr 
be harmful to one's health or make one incapable of fulfilling the duties of statě, which are more 
important than the voluntary practice of mortification. And the soul should také care not to make 
an end or goal of that which is only a means, believing that sanctity consists in punishing the 

If the Holý Spirit wishes to lead a soul by way of extraordinary penances, he will inspire the soul 
to that effect and will give the strength necessary to carry it out. Meanwhile, the majority of 
souls should practice ordinary bodily mortification by accepting the little crosses of daily life 
with a spirit of faith and perseverance. This last point is very important. It is better to accept and 
carry faithfully the little crosses of daily life than to give oneself to occasional periods of great 
penance, alternated with other periods of relaxation. 

Purification of the Internal Senses 

Of the four intemal senses -- imagination, memory, common sense, and the estimative power -- 
the common sense {sensus communis) is controlled and purified by the custody and purification 
of the external senses. The estimative power is purified and controlled when the imagination is 
purified and the intellectual judgment exercises its proper function. Therefore, we shall speak 
only of the purification of the imagination and the memory. 

The Imagination 

Every idea acquired by the natural operation of our facilities corresponds to an image impressed 
upon the imagination. Without images, the intellect cannot know naturally. Our Lord frequently 
made use of the imagination to pláce the great mysteries within the grasp of the people by means 
of his beautiful parables and allegories. The imagination also has a great influence over the 
sensitive appetite, which is moved with great force toward its proper object when the 
imagination clothes it with speciál attractiveness. 

Because of its great importance and influence, the imagination needs a profound purification. 
When ušed in the service of the good, it can give incalculable assistance; but there is nothing that 
can cause greater difficulty on the way to sanctification that an imagination that has broken away 

from the control of reason enlightened by faiťh. 

There are two principál obstacles caused by an uncontrolled imagination: dissipation and 
temptation. Without recollection, an interior life and a life of prayer are impossible, and there is 
noťhing that so impedes recollection as the inconstancy and dissipation of the imagination. Freed 
of any restraint, it paints in vivid colors the pleasure sin provides for the concupiscible appetite, 
or exaggerates the difficulty the irascible appetite will encounter on the road to virtue, thus 
leading to discouragement. But the difficulties can be avoided if we use the proper means. 

Custody of the External Senses. It is necessary to control the external senses, and especially the 
sense of sight, because they provide the images the imagination retains, reproduces, and 
reassembles, thus, arousing the passions and encouraging the consent of the will. There is no 
better way to avoid temptations from this source than to deprive the imagination of such images 
by custody of the external senses. 

Prudent Selection of Reading Matter. It is not only a guestion of reading matter that is evil or 
obviously dangerous, but also that which fills the imagination with useless images. There are 
occasions, of course, when it is beneficial to engage in light reading for relaxation. It is, in fact, a 
good practice to relieve tension or to rest one's mental powers in this way. But it is likewise 
necessary to provide holý and profitable materiál so that the imagination will be directed 
positively to the good. This is where spirituál reading can contribute a great deal to the proper 
use of the imagination. 

Attention to the Duty of the Moment. The hábit of attending to the duty of the moment has the 
double advantage of concentrating our intellectual powers and of disciplining the imagination by 
preventing it from being distracted to other objects. It also helps a person avoid idleness, which 
is one of the primary sources of dissipation. 

Indifference to Distractions. There is no sure way of avoiding all distractions, but one can 
always ignore them. Indeed, this is a much more effective measure than to combat them directly. 
One should také no account of them but should do what one must do, in špite of the uncontrolled 
imagination. It is possible to keep one's mind and heart fixed on God even in the midst of 
involuntary distractions. 

The Memory 

We make a distinction between the sense memory, which has for its object only the sensible, the 
particular, and the concrete, and the intellectual memory, which deals with the suprasensible, the 
abstract, and the universal; but the process of purification is the samé. The memory can give 
inestimable service to the intellect and can be its most powerful ally. Without it, our spirit would 
be like a sieve that is always empty, however much water is poured into it. For certain types of 
knowledge, such as languages, history, the physical and natural sciences, an excellent memory is 

Precisely because the memory stores up all kinds of knowledge, both good and evil, it is 
necessary to subject it to purification. Throughout life we experience many things that are of no 
use whatever for the sanctification of the soul. Many of them destroy the soul's peace and 
tranguillity, which are so necessary for a life of prayer and recollection. We can offer some 
suggestions for the active purgation of this faculty. 

Forget Past Sins. This is the first step, and it is absolutely indispensable for all who aspire to 
etemal salvation. The remembrance of one's own sins or of those of another has a strong power 
for suggesting to the soul the samé things by way of a new temptation, and of disposing it to sin 
again, especially if a vivid imagination is associated with the recollection. The soul must reject 
immediately and energetically any remembrance of this kind. 

Cease Thinking of Past Injuries. This pertains to virtue and is indispensable for any soul that 
wishes to sanctify itself. In špite of a pardon that has been given, the remembrance of a past 
offense will disturb the peace of conscience and present the guilty party in an unfavorable light. 
One should forget the disagreeable episode and realize that our offenses against God are much 
greater, and that he demands that we pardon others in order to receive his pardon. The soul that 
nourishes rancor, however justifiable it may seem (and it nevěr is in the eyes of God), can forget 
about reaching sanctity. 

Remember Benefits From God. This pertains to the positive purgation of the memory and is an 
effective means for directing the memory to God. The recollection of the immense benefits we 
háve received from God, of the times he has pando ned our faults, of the dangers from which he 
has preserved us, of the loving care he has exercised over us, is an excellent means of arousing 
our gratitude toward him and the desire of corresponding more faithfully with his graces. And if 
to this we add the recollection of our disobedience and rebellion, of our ingratitude and 
resistance to grace, our soul will be filled with humility and confusion and will experience the 
need of redoubling its vigilance and its efforts to be better in the future. 

Consider Motives for Christian Hope. This is one of the most efficacious means for directing 
our memory to God and for purifying it of contact with earthly things. St. John of the Cross 
makes the memory the seat of Christian hope and shows how growth in this virtue effectively 
purges the memory. The remembrance of an etemity of happiness, which is the centrál object of 
Christian hope, is most apt for making us disdain the things of earth and raise our spirits to God. 

Purification of the Passions 

The sensitive appetite is the organic faculty through which we seek the good so far as it is known 
through the senses. It is generically distinct from the rational appetite or the will, which seeks the 
good as apprehended by the intellect. Hence, St. Paul says: "The Flesh lusts against the spirit and 
the spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed" (Gal. 5:17). 

The sensitive appetite, also called sensuality, is divided into two species: the concupiscible or 
pleasure appetite and the irascible or utility appetite. The former has as its object the delightful 
good that is easy to obtain; the latter has as its object the arduous good that is difficult to obtain. 
These two movements of the sensitive appetite give rise to the passions. 

The passions are movements or energies we can use for good or for evil, but in themselves, they 
are neither good nor evil. When placed at the service of the good, the passions can be of 
incalculable assistance, even to the point that one could say that it is morally impossible for a 
soul to arrive at great sanctity without possessing a great energy or passion directed to God. But 
when placed at the service of evil, the passions are converted into a destructive force that is truly 

As movements of the sensitive appetite caused by the apprehension of the sensate good or evil, 

ťhe passions are accompanied by a certain change, more or less intense, in the organism. Some 
psychologists use ťhe worti passion to designate the more vehement and intense movements of 
ťhe sensitive appetite, reserving the worti emotion for those movements that are gentler and more 
ordinary. In any čase, the passions always presuppose some knowledge of the good that is sought 
or the evil that is feared, and the judgment made is always in terms of šelf. The passions are by 
nature expressions of love of šelf. 

In the concupiscible appetite, the good, which has a power of attraction, engenders ťhree 
movements of passion. The simple awareness of good arouses love; if it is a guestion of a future 
good, it gives rise to desire; if it is a good already possessed and present, it produces pleasure. 
On the other hand, the apprehension of evil, which is of itself repulsive, produces hatred; if it is 
an impending evil, it causes a movement of flight or a version; but if the evil has overtaken us, it 
causes sadness. 

In the irascible appetite the absent good, if it is considered possible of attainment, engenders 
hope; but if it is impossible of attainment, it produces despair. In like manner, the difficult evil 
that is absent, if it can be avoided, produces courage; but if ťhe evil is unavoidable, it arouses 
fear, Lastly, the presence of a difficult evil produces anger in the irascible appetite and sadness 
in the concupiscible appetite, while the presence of a difficult good does not arouse any 
movement in the irascible appetite, but causes joy in the concupiscible appetite. For that reason 
ťhe irascible appetite has only five passions, while there are six passions in the concupiscible 

The great importance of the passions can be deduced from their decisive influence in our 
physical, intellectual, and moral life. Withoutthe previous stimulation of the emotions, we would 
také scarcely one step in our physical life, since the stimulation of the emotions is what enables 
us to expend an extraordinary amount of effort for good or for evil. Add to this the fact that the 
passions can háve a powerful influence on bodily health, especially the emotions of sadness, 
anger, and fear. In the moral life the passions can increase or diminish the goodness or malice, 
ťhe merit or demerit of our actions. They diminish human responsibility when a person seeks a 
good or evil more because of the impulse of passion than by the free choice of the will; they 
increase human responsibility when the will confirms the antecedent movement of passion and 
uses it in ortier to work with greater intensity. 

A prudent organization of all our psychological resources can result in a near-perfect control of 
our passions, excepting, of course, the first spontaneous movements of passion, but these do not 
affect morality. People who háve lived for years under the domination or disorderly passions 
háve been able to free themselves from this slavery and begin to live a life ťhat is in harmony 
wiťh the moral law. There is no doubt that there are great difficulties ať the beginning, but 
gradually the individual can achieve self-mastery. The following principles can be helpful in 
achieving control and proper use of the passions. 

1. Every idea tends to produce its corresponding act. This is especially true if the idea or 
sentiment is accompanied by strong emotions and a vivid representation. Conseguently, it is 
necessary to formulate ideas that are in accordance wiťh Christian morality and carefully to avoid 
ťhe concepts and ideas that relate to actions that should be rejected. In this way one's action will 
always be in accordance with one's ideas and values. 

2. Every actarouses the sentiment ofwhich it is a normál expression. The rule of conduct 
following from this principle is that in order to acquire the desired sentiment or to intensify tne 
emotion already experienced, one should act as if already experiencing it. In this way one's 
sentiments and emotions are controlled by one's actions. 

3. Passion augments and intensifies the psychological forces ofthe individual and uses them for 
attaining the goal that one seeks. Consequently, it is necessary to choose the emotion carefully in 
order to gain the most from its psychological potential. In this way one's ideas and actions are 
effectively promoted by the correctuse of emotional energy. 

Such are the basic principles concerning the control and use of a passions, but we must now 
make some detailed applications regarding the rule of conduct in relation to Christian living. 
First of all, one must be firmly convinced of the need to combat disorderly passions, for these 
disturb our spirit impede prayer and reflection, prejudice ourjudgment, stimulate the 
imagination, weaken the power of the will, and disturb one's conscience. The remedies, of 
course, will vary with the particular emotion that must be controlled. Against the passions 
aroused by one's environment, a good remedy is wholesome recreation, distraction, or a journey; 
against those that proceed from the organism itself, work, custody of the senses and the 
imagination, and a regular schedule are helpful; against those originating from one's 
temperament, the best remedy is reflection and will power. 

From a psychological point of view the most important requisite for controlling the passions is 
the firm and resolute will to do so, but wishful thinking will not suffice; there must be a 
determined resolution translated into effective action, especially if it is a question of a deeply 
rooted disorder on the emotional level. Hence, it is necessary to avoid those situations that arouse 
the emotions in relation to sinful objects; to prevent any new manifestation of the emotion; and 
to realize that although giving in to the passion may quiet the urge temporarily, it also gives the 
passion greater strength for making future demands. 

Lastly, one should make use of the technique of sublimation or transference, whereby one is able 
to direct the energy of the passion to morally good and beneficial objects. St. Augustine touched 
on this when he stated that one should choose wisely the objects of love and then love with all 
one's heart. The samé thing applies to all the passions; they are powers for good and should be 
utilized as such, but they can promote one's spirituál perfection and human fulfillment only if 
directed to the proper objects. 

Spirituál directors should carefully examine the passion or passions that predominate in the souls 
under their care. Having doně this, they can propose as materiál for self-examination the control 
and proper use of the passion as we háve just indicated. They should concentrate principally on 
the control of the dominant passion, but without neglecting the others, for frequently more than 
one passion will be involved. 

The persons receiving direction should faithfully and honestly report to the director regarding 
progress or failure in this struggle, and they should not be content until they háve successfully 
directed their emotional energies to God and to morally good objects. This is no easy task and for 
many persons it is the work of a lifetime. On the other hand, it is precisely because they háve 
given up the battle against their own passions that many persons abandon the struggle for 
sanctity. Lastly, we would stress that we are not here advocating the extinction or repression of 

ťhe emotions, but their control and proper use, for wiťhout great passion for G od and the good, 
sanctity is impossible. 

Purification of the Intellect 

The active purification of the extemal and intemal senses and of the sensitive appetite constitutes 
a great step toward Christian perfection. But it is necessary that the purification reach the very 
depths of one's spirit there to rectify the deviations of intellect and will. After that the passive 
purifications will complete what a person cannot accomplish by his or her own efforts under 
ordinary grace. 

According to traditional psychology, there are two spirituál faculties of the soul: the intellect and 
the will. Some mystical authors, including St John of the Cross, considered the intellectual 
memory as a faculty distinct from the intellect and will, but modern psychology classifies it as a 
function of the intellect. We shall therefore speak of the active purgation of the two spirituál 
faculties that are really distinct: the intellect and the will. 

The intellect is the spirituál faculty by which we apprehend things in an immaterial way. Its 
proper effect is the idea or essence it abstracts from external reality by means of the abstractive 
power of the intellect acting upon the phantasm in the imagination. Intellectual knowledge is 
completely distinct and far superior to sense knowledge. Knowledge acguired through the senses 
always refers to singulár objects in the existential order, but knowledge through ideas or 
concepts is always universal, abstract and undetermined as to individuality. We possess 
sensitive knowledge in common with animals; we possess intellectual knowledge in common 
with purely spirituál beings. 

When the intellect compares two ideas and affirms or denies the connection between them, it 
pronounces a judgment which is the second act or function of the intellect. When it compares 
two judgments or statements and draws a conclusion, it performs the act of reasoning. The 
function proper to the intellect is judgment and it is there that we speak of truth or error, but 
prior to that it is necessary that one exercise proper attention and concentration so that the 
concepts received by the intellect will be in conformity with objective truth. 

Although the intellect as a spirituál faculty is eminently simple, mystical authors háve made 
distinctions or divisions of that faculty in order to explain certain phenomena of mystical 
experience otherwise difficult to understand. Thus, some of them háve referred to the mens, or 
high point of the intellect to designate that part of the soul that always reflects the image of God 
and can experience the divine even in the midst of trials and darkness. They also speak of the 
superior reason and the inferior reason. The former reaches its conclusions from the principles of 
pure understanding, unaffected by the passions or lower powers of the soul, whereas the latter 
tends toward that which is useful or delightful and is therefore much more dosely related to the 
movements of passion or what is called the "animal man." 

What this means in practice is that the intellectual functions of simple apprehension, judgment 
and reasoning can be greatly influenced by the appetitive powers of will and emotions. The latter 
tend to draw the intellect downward to the things of the senses or inward to selfish pursuits. For 
this reason the mystical writers háve consistently extolled the speculative and contemplative 
aspects of the intellectual activity. 

The active purification of the intellect normally requires first of all the removal of obstacles to 
the virtuous use of this faculty. This means that the individual must at the outset reject all vain, 
useless, and sinful thoughts. The imagination, as we háve seen, is practically uncontrollable 
directly, and therefore it will frequentiy present to the intellect phantasms that must be rejected 
or ignored. Secondly, it is necessary to overcome ignorance by studying the truths of faith and 
seeking to probe their deeper meaning and their application to Christian living. At the samé time, 
one should avoid the vice of intellectual curiosity that engages in the study of sacred truths as a 
purely scholastic pursuit instead of seeing them as truths by which one lives. Lastly, it is 
necessary to avoid excessive attachment to one's own ideas and opinions, especially in matters of 
faith. The two attitudes that are especially important here are obedience to the Magisterium of 
the Church and the cultivation of a mentality that is open and receptive to new developments and 
applications of revealed truths or theological conclusions. 

We can offer the following positive principle as a guide in the purification of the intellect: the 
soul must let itselfbe led by the light of faith, which is the proximate and proportionate means 
for the union ofthe intellect with God in this life. No one has expounded this principle so well as 
St. John of the Cross. He repeats it constantly in his Ascent of Mount Carmel. 

Among all creatures, the highest or the lowest, there is no ne that comes near to God or bears any 
resemblance to his being. For although it is trne, as theologians say, that all creatures háve a 
certain relation to God and bear a divine impress (some more and others less, according to the 
greater or lesser excellence of their nature), yet there is no essential resemblance or connection 
between them and God; on the contrary, the distance between their being and his divine being is 
infinite. Hence it is impossible for the intellect to attain to God by means of creatures, whether 
these be celestial or earthly, because there is no proportion or resemblance between them .... 

The reason for this is that the imagination cannot fashion or imagine anything whatever beyond 
that which it has experienced through the external senses, námely, that which it has seen with the 
eyes, heard with the ears, etc. At most it can only compose likenesses of those things which it 
has seen or heard or felt .... 

Just so ; all that the imagination can imagine and the intellect can receive and understand in this 
life is not nor can it be, a proximate means of union with God .... 

From what has been said it is to be inferred that in order that the intellect be prepared for this 
divine union, it must be pure and void of all that pertains to sense, and detached and freed from 
all that can be clearly apprehended by the intellect profoundly hushed and put to silence, and 
leaning upon faith, which alone is the proximate and proportionate means whereby the soul is 
united with God .... Therefore, the greater the faith of the soul, the more dosely is it united with 

Therefore the soul must travel in pure faith if it wishes to arrive at the perfect purification of the 
intellect and be intimately united with God. The reason is that since the rational creature has far 
greater dignity and excellence than all temporal and earthly creatures, it is made impure by 
attaching itself to these things through love, but purified by tending to those things above itself, 
and especially to God. But the first movement toward God is through faith, and therefore the first 
principle of purification is faith, vivified by charity. 

It does not matter that faith is essentially about things ťhat are not seen clearly and is therefore 
necessarily obscure. In fact, it is precisely because of this that faith can provide the only 
knowledge possible conceming the intimate life of God, who cannot be adeguately represented 
by any created intelligible species. The clear vision and knowledge of God are reserved for us in 
the beatific vision in glory, but even in this life faith enables us to attain in some measure to the 
unfathomable mystery of God, though the knowledge be dark and obscure. By reason of its 
object, the knowledge of faith is superior to all sensible and intellectual evidence that we could 
háve of God in this life. 

It is necessary that the soul inform all its life and actions with the light of faith, and cling ever 
more firmly to the truths pro posed for faith on the authority of God. Gradually one can reach the 
point of judging all things through the light of faith and, indeed, to see all things as God sees 

Purification of the Will 

The will, also called the rational appetite, is the faculty by which we seek the good as known by 
the intellect. It is distinguished from the sensitive appetite, which instinctively seeks the good as 
known by the senses. Even the animals possess a sensitive appetite, but the rational appetite is 
proper to intellectual beings. 

The proper object of the will is the good proposed to it by the intellect, but in the appreciation or 
evaluation of the good, error may creep in. The intellect can judge as a true good something that 
is only an apparent good, and the will, which is a blind faculty and always follows the 
apprehension of the intellect, will be impelled toward that object that is taken as if it were a true 

The proper act of the will is love, or the effective union of the will with a known good. All the 
movements or partial aspects of the human acts that také pláce in the will, such as simple 
volition, efficacious tendencies, consent, active use of the faculties, and fruition, proceed from 
love, directly orindirectly. 

Love can be divided in many ways. The principál division for our purposes is the following: by 
reason of the object, love can be sensual or spirituál; by reason of the modality, love can be 
natural or supernatural; by reason of the formal object or motive, love can be a love of 
concupiscence or of benevolence. It is called a love of concupiscence when one desires the good 
so far as it is good for oneself (egotistic motive); it is a love of benevolence if one loves another 
precisely so far as the other is good and lovable; it is a love offriendship if the love is directed to 
a person and is a mutual benevolent love. Thus the sensual person loves with a love of 
concupiscence the object that gives pleasure; the blessed in heaven habitually love God with a 
love of benevolence, taking complacence in his infinite perfection and rejoicing that God is 
infinitely happy in himself; and the blessed in heaven and the people sanctified by grace here on 
earth love God with the love of friendship under the impulse of the virtue of charity. 

Acts of the will may be elicited or imperated. They are called elicited if they proceed directly 
from the will (e.g., to consent, to choose, to love). They are called imperated (commanded) acts 
when they are performed by some other faculty under the command of the will (e.g., to study, to 
paint, to mortify oneself voluntarily). 

As we háve already seen, human nátuře and all its faculties were profoundly affected by originál 
sin. Once the orientation to God had been weakened, the dominion of reason over the sensible 
faculties was also weakened, and the will itself was readily inclined to selfishness. 

Hence the necessity of a double effort involved in the rectification of the will: one required to 
subject the will to God by means of a total submission and conformity to his divine will; the 
other to increase the power of the will with regard to the inferior faculties until it can subject 
them completely to itself. In other words, one must attempt to regain, at the cost of great effort 
and with the help of grace, that initial rectitude that the will enjoyed when it came forth from the 
creative hand of God. 

It should be evident that we cannot achieve total submission of our will to God unless we first 
detach ourselves from excessive love of created things and from the self-centered love that runs 
counterto the demands of charity. 

St. John of the Cross reduces his whole spirituál doctrine to this detachment from creatures, as 
the negative element and to union with God through love as the positive element. It is a fact that 
the soul is filled with God in the measure and to the degree that it empties itself of creatures. 

The reasons for the necessity of detachment from creatures for perfect union with God, as stated 
by St. John of the Cross, can be summarized in the following synthesis. 

1 . God is all, the necessary and absolute being, most pure act without the shadow of potency, 
who exists of himself and possesses the absolute plenitude of being. Compared with him, 
creatures are nothing; they are contingent beings that háve more of potency than of act. 

2. Two contraries cannot exist in the samé subject because they mutually exclude each other. 
Therefore, light is incompatible with darkness and the All is incompatible with nothing. 

3. If, then, creatures are nothing and darkness, and God is the All and light, it follows that the 
soul that wishes to be united with God must detach itself from creatures. Without this, union with 

4. Hence it is necessary that the way and ascent to God should consist in mortifying the desires. 
Until these desires cease, the soul will not arrive at perfect union, although it may exercise many 
virtues, because it still does not perform those virtues with perfection, which requires that the 
soul be purged of every inordinate desire. 

5. Some persons burden themselves with extraordinary penances and many other exercises and 
think that this or that will suffice for them to arrive at union with divine wisdom. If they would 
exert half the effort in mortifying their desires, they would advance more in one month through 
this practice than they would in many years by means of the other exercises. Just as it is 
necessary that one labor over the earth if it is to bear fruit, and without labor it will bear nothing 
but weeds, so also mortification of the appetites is necessary if there is to be any fruit or profit in 
the soul.(6) 

St. John of the Cross develops these thoughts throughout all his writings, which teach both the 
negative element of detachment and the positive element of the love of God. Actually, the 
systém of St. John of the Cross can be reduced to one important statement: God is all. His 

negations rest on affirmation, because they háve as their object tne detachment of tne soul from 
the falše appearances of creatures, in order to enable the soul, purified and ennobled, to lose 
itself in the profundity of the A 11. He does not disdain creatures; he wishes only to help the soul 
see in creatures the traces and vestiges of the divine being. 

But no one can arrive at the A 11 except by the narrow path of the absolute negation of the 

In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, desire to háve pleasure in nothing. 

In order to arrive at possessing everything, desire to possess nothing. 

In order to arrive at being everything, desire to be nothing. 

In order to arrive at knowing everything, desire to know nothing. 

In order to arrive at that in which you háve no pleasure, you must go by a way in which 

you háve no pleasure. 

In order to arrive at that which you do not know, you must go by a way which you do not 


In order to arrive at that which you do not possess, you must go by a way that you do not 


In order to arrive at that which you are not, you must go through that which you are not. 

When your mind dwells on anything, you are no longer casting yourself upon the All. 

In order to pass from the all to the All, you must děny yourself wholly in all. 

And when you come to possess it wholly, you must possess it without desiring anything. 

And if you will háve anything in having all, you do not háve your treasure purely in 


St. John of the Cross does not intend to annihilate the natural tendencies of human nature by 
removing them from their object and leaving them suspended in a vacuum. He wishes to 
orientate them to God, to make God the only object of the soul. It is trne that this can nevěr be 
attained perfectly until the soul has been introduced into the passive purgations, but God does not 
usually complete the purification of the soul until the soul has doně all that it can by using the 
ordinary means within its grasp. For that reason St. John of the Cross repeats with insistence that 
one must mortify the desires that divide the forces of the soul. When the soul has become 
detached from creatures, it will be filled with God. 

Detachment from created things is absolutely indispensable for arriving at Christian perfection, 
but it would be of little avail to detach oneself from extemal things if one is not likewise 
detached from one's own ego, which constitutes the greatest of all the obstacles to one's free 
flight to God. St. Thomas states that egoism or disordered self-love is the origin and root of all 
sin.{8) St. Augustine says: "Two loves háve erected two cities: self-love, carried to the extréme 
of disdain of God, has built the city of the world; the love of God, carried to the point of disdain 
for one's šelf, has constructed the city of God. The one glories in itself; the other glories in the 

Precisely because it is the root of all sins, the manifestations of self-love are varied and almost 
infinite. So far as it affects spirituál things, self-love becomes the center around which everything 
else must rotate. Some persons seek themselves in everything, even in holý things: in prayer, 
which they prolong when they find sweetness and consolation in it, but which they abandon 
when they experience aridity; in the reception of the sacraments, which they seek only for 

sensible consolation; in spirituál direction, which they consider a notě of distinction and in 
which, therefore, they always seek the director who is most popular, or who will let them live in 
peace with their egoistic values and selfish aims; in the very desire for sanctification, which they 
do not subordinate to the greater glory of God and the good of souls, but which they direct to 
themselves as the best ornament of their souls here on earth and as the source of increased 
happiness and glory in heaven. We would nevěr finish if we were to attempt to list the 
manifestations of excessive šelf- love. 

The soul that aspires to perfect union with God must strive energetically against its own 
self-love, which subtly penetrates even holý things. It must examine the true motive for its 
actions, continually rectify its intentions, and not pláce as its goal or the goal of all its activities 
and efforts anything other than the glory of God and the perfect fulfillment of his divine will. It 
must keep constantly in mind the decisive words of Christ himself, who makes perfect 
selfabnegation the indispensable condition for following him: "Whoeverwishes to be my 
follower must děny his very šelf, také up his cross each day, and follow in my steps" (Luke 

Passive Purgations 

Up to this point we háve been examining the active purifications the soul can effect by its own 
efforts with the help of grace in order to purge itself of its defects. Now we shall consider the 
part that God reserves for himself in the purification of the soul: the passive purifications, which 
are divided into the night of the senses and the night of the spirit. 

The teaching of St. John of the Cross on the necessity of the passive purgations is very clear. In 
Book I of The Dark Night, he treats of the imperfections of beginners. After describing these 
imperfections in the chapters that follow, he terminates with these words: 

However assiduously the beginner in mortification exercises himself in all these actions and 
passions, he can nevěr completely succeed -- far from it -- until God shall effect it in him 
passively by means of the purgation of said night. (10) 

To speak of perfection and sanctity without the soul's having endured any of the passive 
purifications is to depart radicaHy from the doctrine of St. John of the Cross. It cannot be said, as 
they who are defenders of the double way háve said, that the passive purifications pertain only to 
those souls who are to attain perfection by the mystical way and not to those who are to reach 
perfection by the ascetical way. St. John of the Cross teaches that, however much the soul may 
exert itself, it cannot correct its imperfections unless God does this for the soul in a passive 
manner. Therefore, one or the other conclusion must be accepted: either we must say that there is 
a perfection that is filled with imperfections (which is manifestly a contradiction), or there is no 
other perfection than that which results in the passive purification and is manifestly a mystical 

Theological reason fully confirms the teaching of St. John of the Cross. As a result of originál 
sin, human nature is strongly inclined to evil. Egoism, which is imbedded in the very depths of 
our being, disturbs the clarity of our intellect and impedes our objective view of things, 
especiaHy when self-love makes us see things through the perspective of its own evaluations. 

The passive purifications are, therefore, necessary from the very nature of things. Naturally, not 

all souls will suffer them with the samé rigor, because there are many degrees of impurity that 
háve been contracted, and ťhere are many grades of perfection to which various souls are 
destined. But in every čase, in order to conguer egoism, sensuality, šelf- love, the immoderate 
desire for sensible consolations, intellectual pride, and whatever opposes the spirit of faith, it is 
absolutely indispensable that there be a complete and total renewal of the soul through the 
passive purifications. 

This doctrine has the advantage of opening wide horizons to souls and of saving them from many 
dangers and illusions into which they could easily fall if they were obliged to remain in that 
which has been called the "ordinary" way of sanctity. Some authors do not look with sympathy 
on the mystical way because they believe it to be filled with dangers and pitfalls, but in reality 
the contrary is true. In the mystical statě souls are governed in a speciál manner by the Holý 
Spirit himself, operating through his precious gifts and divine motion. Illumined by the light of 
contemplation, they discover much better their nothingness and their misery, at the samé time 
that they see the snares of their enemies and their own sensuality. They are much more cautious, 
prudent, and docile to their spirituál masters precisely because of the passive purifications to 
which they háve been subjected. 

There is, therefore, no doubt that the passive purifications, which according to the unanimous 
teaching of all the schools of spirituality are of a mystical order, are necessary and indispensable 
in one form or another for the full purification of the soul, and for arriving at complete Christian 

Let us now see in particular the two principál manifestations of these passive purifications, 
which St. John of the Cross calls the night of the senses and the night of the spirit. 


The night of the senses consists of a prolonged series of profound and persistent aridities that 
submerge the soul in a very painful statě and severely test its perseverance in the desire for 
sanctification. It is so difficult to support this crisis of the senses that the many souls draw back 
in fear and abandon the life of prayer. 

No one has explained with such precision and clarity as has St. John of the Cross the nature, 
necessity, causes, and effects of the passive purifications. Above all, it is necessary to notě that 
St. John of the Cross includes under the word senses not only the extemal and intemal senses, 
but also the sensitive appetite and the discursive intellect so far as it uses the imagination to 
construct its discursus. He begins by describing the sweetness that beginners usually experience 
in the service of God. They may become strongly attached to the sensible consolations and, 
without realizing it, make the delight and sweetness they find in the practices of devotion the 
principál motive for which they practice them. On feeling themselves so favored by God, they 
think they are already saints, or not far from being saints. As a result, there they manifest many 
imperfections that flow from the seven capital sins. (ll) 

A profound purification is needed, but these souls could nevěr achieve it by their own efforts, 
even if they could recognize all their faults. Therefore God intervenes and leads them into the 
night of the senses. 

They háve now had practice for some time in the way of virtue and háve persevered in 

meditation and prayer, and because of tne sweetness and pleasure they háve therein found, they 
háve lost their love of the things of the world and háve gained some degree of spirituál strength 
in God .... When they are going about these spirituál exercises with the greatest delight and 
pleasure, and when they believe that the sun of divine favor is shining most brightly upon them, 
God turns all this light of theirs into darkness and shuts against them the dooř and the source of 
the sweet spirituál water which they were tasting in God whenever and for as long as they 
desired .... And thus he leaves them so completely in the dark that they know not whither to go 
with their sensible imagination and meditation, for they cannot advance a step in meditation, as 
they were accustomed to do before, their inward senses being submerged in this night and left 
with such dryness that not only do they experience no pleasure and consolation in spirituál things 
and good exercises in which they were wont to find their delights and pleasures, but instead they 
find insipidity and bitterness in the things mentioned. (12) 

St. John of the Cross expressly states that the cause of this emptiness and insipidity of the senses 
is infused contemplation. 

The soul can no longer meditate or reflect in the imaginative sphere of sense as it ušed to do, 
however much it may attempt to do so. For God now begins to communicate himself to it, no 
longer through sense, as he did before, ... but by an act of simple contemplation, to which neither 
the exterior nor the interior senses of the lower part of the soul can attain. (13) 

How can one discem the presence of the night of the senses and distinguish it from the dryness 
or aridity that may be caused by other reasons, such as dissipation, bodily indisposition, or 
influence of the devil? St. John of the Cross gives three signs: (14) 

1. The first sign is that the soul finds delight or consolation neither in the things of God nor in 
any created thing. If the soul were to find consolation in the latter, it is evident that its distaste for 
the things of God would be due to a dissipation of the soul. But since this universal dryness or 
distaste could come from some indisposition of the body that causes one to lose one's taste for 
everything, it is necessary to add the second sign. 

2. The second sign is that ordinarily the memory is fixed on God with great care, but the soul 
thinks that, rather than serving God, it is falling back, because of its lack of taste for the things of 
God. One can see that the distaste does not proceed from lukewarmness, because it is the nature 
of lukewarmness not to háve any interior solicitude for the things of God. And if it comes from 
some bodily infirmity, everything becomes distasteful, and there is not even any desire to serve 
G od. Nor would the devil arouse any desire to serve G od. For that reason this second sign is one 
of the most unmistakable. 

3. The third sign is the inability to meditate or use reasoning by means" of the imagination as one 
formerly did. The reason for this impotency is due to the initial infused contemplation. 

When these three signs are all verified in a clear manner, the soul and the spirituál director can 
conclude that they are in the presence of the night of the senses and can act accordingly. But for 
greater certitude, we shall investigate the matter further in order to verify with certainty whether 
the aridity that the soul experiences in this statě is due to the night of the senses or to one of the 
other causes. 

If it is an effect of lukewarmness, it can be known very easily because this distaste for the things 

of God will be accompanied by a strong inclination for recreation and worldly diversion, 
together with a dissipation of soul that sometimes runs the risk of mortal sin and commits venial 
sin without any resistance. The remedy for this is to repent sincerely and to retům again with 
new fervor to the road of the spirituál life. 

If it is a guestion of mental infirmity or nervous imbalance, it is not difficult to distinguish it 
from the aridity of the night of the senses. 

To distinguish neurasthenia from the passive purification, we should notě that the most freguent 
symptoms in neurasthenics are the following: almost continual fatigue, even when they háve not 
worked, accompanied by a feeling of prostration, of discouragement; habitual headaches... ; 
insomnia, to the extent that the neurasthenic wakes up more tired than when he went to bed; 
difficulty in exercising the intellectual faculties and in maintaining attention; impressionability 
(intense emotions forvery slight causes), which leads the sufferer to believe that he has illnesses 
that he does not really háve; excessive self-analysis even to minuté details. and continual 
preoccupation not to become ill. 

Neurasthenics are, however, not imaginary invalids; the powerlessness they experience is reál, 
and it would be very imprudent to urge them to disregard their fatigue and work to the limit of 
their strength. What they lack is not will but power. 

We should also notě that psycho neuroses may be associated with a developed intellectual life 
and a lofty moral life .... But we see also that the passive night is distinguished from this statě of 
nervous fatigue by the second sign (the soul ordinarily keeps the memory of God with solicitude 
and painful anxiety for fear it may be falling back), and by the third sign (the guasi-impossibility 
to meditate, but the ability to keep a simple and loving gáze on God, the beginning of infused 
contemplation). The ardent desire for God and for perfection, which is manifested by these signs, 
distinguishes notably this passive purgation from neurasthenia, which may sometimes coexist 

If it is a guestion of diabolical temptation or disturbance, which God permits sometimes as a 
means of purifying a soul, it will be known from the fact that the aridity is accompanied by 
strong, sinful suggestions of an unusual tenacity, together with an instinctive horror of the soul 
toward such suggestions. The devil tries to disturb the peace and tranguillity of the soul and to 
withdraw it from the practice of prayer. The soul will conguer the devil by insisting, in špite of 
its repugnance, on its exercises of piety, and by using the other methods for conguering the devil 
that we indicated when discussing diabolical temptation (see Chapter 7). 

Sometimes one or another of these states may coincide with the night of the senses, and 
especially the second or third. In this čase, a careful and penetrating analysis is reguired in order 
to discem what pertains to one or another cause and to correct it with the proper remedies. 
Sometimes also there will be concomitant trials of various kinds. On the part of the devil there 
are terrible temptations against faith, hope, and charity; strong suggestions against purity 
accompanied by phantasms in the imagination; a spirit of blasphemy so violent and strong that at 
times one is almost forced to pronounce the words, and this is grave torment to the soul, as St. 
John of the Cross states; obscurities that fill the soul with a thousand scruples and perplexities, 
and other similar afflictions. 

Again there may be persecutions and ridicule, sometimes from the good people, which is one of 
ťhe greatest tribulations one is forced to suffer; or one's own superior or friends or spirituál 
director may torment the soul by judging its statě to be one of lukewarmness or by not being able 
to discover the proper remedies to alleviate its condition. Lastly, there may be infirmities, 
misfortunes, the loss of one's good name or friends or possessions. It would seem at times that 
heaven and earth háve conspired against the soul, but God is permitting all these things in -- 
order to detach it completely from the things of earth, to remind it that it can do nothing without 
him, and how much it needs his divine mercy and assistance. 

Not all souls suffer the night of the senses to the samé degree. It depends on the grade of 
perfection to which God intends to elevate the soul, the greater or fewer number of imperfections 
from which the soul must be purified, the forces and energies of the soul itself, and its docility 
and patience in supporting this painful trial. There are always degrees of more or less in these 
purifications, but God always gives his grace and strength in the measure needed by the soul. 

During the dark night of the senses, the soul should observe the following forms of conduct: 

1. Complete and loving submission to the will of God, accepting with patience and resignation 
the painful trial for as long a time as God decrees. The soul should not consider this purgative 
statě as something evil but see in it a means of fortifying itself and of making progress in the 
spirituál life. This is the advice given by St. John of the Cross in Chapter 10, Book I of The Dark 

2. Perseverance in prayer in špite of all difficulty, in imitation of Christ in the Garden of 
Gethsemane, who even in his agony prayed with greater intensity (Luke 22:43). Prayer in the 
midst of these terrible aridities is a veritable torment for the soul, and only by means of force 
exerted upon oneself can the soul persevere in it; but it is necessary that the soul should do so, 
asking God for strength, if it does not wish to fall back and lose everything. This is the point at 
which many souls tum back. Tormented by those agonies of the dark night, they abandon the life 
of prayer when they were on the point of receiving the grace to make giant strides along the road 
to sanctity. But it is necessary that the soul know that it is being led into a new type of prayer, 
and it would be a great imprudence to try to use the former method of prayer. 

3. The soul should remain in peace and guiet, content simply with a loving gáze on God, without 
any particular consideration and without any desire for delight or sensation. The reason is that 
the soul is receiving infused contemplation, which has nothing to do with the methods of 
ascetical prayer. 

St. John of the Cross explains: 

And although further scruples may come to them -- that they are wasting their time and that it 
would be well for them to do something else, because they can neither do nor think anything in 
prayer -- let them suffer these scruples and remain in peace .... If such a soul should desire to 
make any effort of its own with its interior faculties, it will hinder and lose the blessings which ... 
God is instilling into it and impressing upon it... 

For these reasons such a soul should pay no heed if the operations of its faculties become lost to 
it; it should rather desire that this happen guickly. For by not hindering the operation of infused 
contemplation which God is bestowing upon it, it can receive this with more peaceful abundance 

and cause its spirit to be enkindled and burn with tne love which this dark and secret 
contemplation brings with it and sets firmly in the soul. For contemplation is naught else than a 
secret peaceful, and loving infusion from God which, if it be permitted, enkindles the soul with 
the spirit of love.(16) 

The soul would actually be going back if it were at this time. to retům to the discursive use of its 
faculties. And yet the soul should remember that in the beginning it will not perceive any speciál 
attraction of the Holý Spirit to remain guiet and tranguil. In this čase, as St. John of the Cross 
advises, it ought to practice meditation in the "usual manner in order tot to remain without the 
one or the other. But as soon as the soul encounters difficulty in the operations of the faculties 
and perceives a strong desire to remain in loving attention to God by means of a simple gáze and 
without any particular consideration, it should then let itself be led by this impulse of grace. 

4. Docility to a prudent and experienced director. At no other time is the advice of a prudent 
spirituál director so necessary as in this crisis. 

However, the soul should therefore understand that if it wants to make progress in perfection, it 
must be careful into whose hands it places itself, because as the master is, so also shall be the 
disciple. And if it does not háve a spirituál director or does not háve as excellent a one as would 
be desirable, God will supply in other ways so long as the soul remains humble and seeks only 
the will of God in all I things. 

St. John of the Cross enumerates the great benefits produced in the soul by the night of the 
senses. The following is a summary of his teaching, taken from The Dark Night, Book I, 
Chapters 12 and 13. 

Knowledge of one's šelf and one's misery on finding oneself so full of obscurity and 

Greater respect and courtesy toward God than one had when one enjoyed sensible 

More vivid light conceming the grandeur and excellence of God. 

Profound humility upon seeing oneself so wretched. 

Love of neighbor. 

Submission and obedience. 

Purification of avarice, lust, and spirituál gluttony, and purification of anger, envy, and sloth. 

Recollection in God with a fear of falling back. 

Exercise of the virtues. 

Liberty of spirit in which one enjoys the fruits of the Holý Ghost 

Victory against the three enemies of the soul; the worid, the flesh, and the devil. 

The duration of these painful trials of the night of the senses will vary in different cases. St. John 

of the Cross remarks that it depends upon the degree of love to which God wishes to raise the 
soul and the greater or lesser dross of imperfections from which the soul must be purified. God 
does not purify weak souls with such intensity and profundity as he does the strongen there are 
altemate periods of light and obscurity so that weak souls will not become discouraged and fall 

Some souls pass through the night of the senses without being able to know definitely and clearly 
when the night began and when it ended. The director must také into account this possibility so 
that he will not be deceived concerning the true statě of the soul. But when God wishes to raise a 
soul to a very high degree of perfection, he is wont to subject it for a long time and with great 
intensity to these painful purifications of the senses. 

Spirituál directors and theologians of the spirituál life may reasonably ask when one can expect 
the night of the senses to occur in the soul's progress to perfection. There is no agreement on the 
precise point at which the soul enters the dark night of the senses. However, St. John of the Cross 
seems to teach that one should expect the passive purgation of the senses to start while the soul is 
still practicing acguired mental prayer, and to serve as a transition to the full illuminative stage. 
This means that mystical activity has its beginnings in the illuminative stage. When the soul 
begins to experience infused contemplative prayer, it will, if it follows faithfully the movements 
of the Holý Spirit soon enter fully into the night of the senses. St. John of the Cross expresses it 
as follows: 

Into this dark night souls begin to enter when God draws them forth from the statě of beginners, 
which is the statě of those that meditate on the spirituál road, and begins to set them in the statě 
of progressives, which is that of those who are already contemplatives, to the end that after 
passing through it, they may arrive at the statě of the perfect, which is that of the divine union of 
the soul with God. (17) 

When this house of sensuality was now at rest, that is, was mortified, its passion being guenched 
and its desire put to rest and lulled to sleep by means of this blessed night of purgation of sense, 
the soul went forth, to set out upon the road and way of the spirit, which is that of progressives 
and proficients, and which, by another name, is called the way of illumination or of infused 
contemplation, wherein God himself feeds and refreshes the soul, without meditation or the 
soul's active help. (18) 

Therefore, according to St. John of the Cross, the passive night of the senses marks the transition 
from the purgative way to the illuminative way, from the ascetical phase to the mystical phase, 
from those who meditate in the spirituál life to those who begin to be enlightened by the 
splendors of infused contemplation. 

Night of the Spirit 

The night of the spirit is constituted by a series of passive purgations that are extremely painful 
and háve for their object the completion of the purification that was begun but not completed by 
the night of the senses. By means of the terrifying trials of this second night, the defects of the 
soul are uprooted at their very source, something that could not be accomplished by the 
purification of the senses. St. John of the Cross says: 

The night which we háve called that of sense may and should be called a kind of correction and 

restraint of desire rather than purgation. The reason is ťhat all the imperfections and disorders of 
ťhe sensual parts háve their strength and root in the spirit where all habits, both good and bad, 
are brought into subjection, and thus, until these are purged, the rebellions and depravities of 
sense cannot be puryed thorouqhlv.(19) 

The causes of the night of the spirit are the samé as those of the night of the senses, námely, 
infused contemplation and the imperfection of the sout although in a higher degree of intensity 
as regards the contemplative light. The excess of this light torments and blinds the soul at the 
samé time that it manifests to the soul its smallest and most insignificant imperfection. The 
contrast between the ineffable grandeur of God as seen through the splendor of contemplation 
and the dross of imperfections and miseries that the soul discovers in itself makes the soul feel 
that an intimate union between such great light and such great darkness is impossible and that the 
soul is condemned to live eternally separated from God. This situation, which seems most 
evident and beyond remedy, submerges the soul into a statě of anguish and torture so terrifying 
that it surpasses the torments of purgatory, in which the souls háve the assurance of eternal 

The principál source of suffering in this night is an apparent abandonment by God. The soul is 
deprived of all delight and satisfaction in relations with God. It is closed in upon itself, faced 
with its own misery and lowliness; God appears as a ruthless and avenging judge. The soul 
desires more than ever to serve God but feels that it can in no way be acceptable to God. 
Although actually in a high statě of perfection, it feels desolate rather than favored by God. It 
would welcome death as a release from its torture. 

But the soul that passes through this night comes forth from this trial resplendent and beautiful, 
completely transformed in God, and free forever from its weaknesses, imperfections, and 
miseries. Having been completely purified of them by the terrible mystical purgatory it has 
suffered, it scales the heights of sanctity, is confirmed in grace, and awaits only death to break 
the bonds that still hold it in this world in order to penetrate the eternal splendors of the beatific 

Is the night of the spirit necessary in order to reach Christian perfection? In order to attain the 
relative perfection that corresponds to the souls that háve passed through the fifth and are 
entering upon the sixth mansions described by St. Teresa (contemplative prayer of quiet and of 
union), the dark night of the spirit is not necessary. God can supply and has, in fact, supplied for 
the purifications of the night of the spirit by means of other intermittent trials, altemating light 
with darkness, until he raises the soul to the degree of purity and perfection to which he has 
predestined it. 

But in order for anyone to reach the seventh mansions of transforming union and to scale the 
very heights of sanctity, the night of the spirit is indispensable. St. John of the Cross states this 
many times, and it must be so by the very nature of things. The soul cannot be united with God 
in the transforming union until it has been totally purified of all its weakness and misery. And 
this is the proper effect of the night of the spirit. 

It should be evident that there cannot be any fixed rule concerning the night of the spirit because 
circumstances are too variable. But these painful purifications usually last for a long period of 
time, sometimes for years, before the soul is admitted to the transforming union or mystical 

marriage. From time to time, God is wont to lift his hand and let tne soul breathe, but if it is a 
question of the trne night of the spirit these periods of relaxation are very brief. The soul 
immediately returns to the terrible pains and torture until the trial is finished by its entrance into 
the last classified degree of perfection, which is the transforming union. 

The passive purgations of the spirit when they are intermittent extend throughout the 
illuminative and the unitive way, but when it is a question of the trne night of the spirit they 
occur between the sixth and seventh mansions described by St. Teresa, that is to say, when the 
soul is already far advanced in the unitive way and prior to its entrance into the transforming 
union for which the night is a preparation. 

Anyone who reads St. John of the Cross can see that when he says that God places the soul in 
this terrible night to lead it to divine union, he is not referring to the unitive way taken in its 
entirety, but to the transforming union, which is the finál union to which the soul attains. 
Otherwise, it would be necessary to exclude from the unitive way the marvelous phenomena of 
the ecstatic union, which do not appear in the transforming union, and which, nevertheless, 
pertain to the unitive way according to the traditional teaching. 

The attempt to fit the purgative, illuminative, and unitive stages of the spirituál life into the 
fourfold active and passive nights of the senses and the spirit may appear rather tedious and 
strained to contemporary theologians. It is better, perhaps, to stress the continuous development, 
differentiated only by a greater or lesser intensity. 

Father John Arintero has described the dark night of the spirit in great detail, and he places it at 
the height of the unitive way, prior to the transforming union. We quote a small part of his 
description as a fitting conclusion to our study of the active and passive purgations. 

That this union may be changed from the conforming union to the transforming union, God 
himself must work in the soul in a manner that is hidden, mysterious, and painful. He rids the 
soul of all sensible delights which it experienced in the former union wherein the delight of the 
spirit redounded to the senses. God seems to hide himself now, but actually he is much more 
intimately united to the soul. The soul is amazed at the change it now experiences. It believes 
itself to be abandoned, yet it finds that it is improved in every way. The change is most 
profitable, but the soul is unable to understand how this can be so .... 

In the formidable spirituál darkness wherein the soul is buried in its mystical cocoon and is 
incapacitated for working by itself or for possessing any initiative at all, it believes itself to be 
imprisoned or buried in hell itself. Nevertheless it is gradually undergoing the mysterious change 
from the conforming to the transforming union although the soul itself is scarcely aware of it .... 

Thus is verified the obscure and prolonged interior activity which renews souls and disposes 
them for the mystical espousal. Later it leads them gradually to the total transformation which is 
required for the mystical marriage. (20) 


TheAscent ofMount Carmel, trans. E. Allison Peers (Westminster, Md.: Newman, 1957), 

Book III, Chap. 24. 
Ibid., Book I, Chap. 6. 

Ibid., Book III, Chap. 24. 

Abbé Maynard, Vertus et doctrine spirituelle de S. Vincent de Paul (Paris: Tequi, 1924), 
Chap. 23. 

TheAscentofMountCarmel, Book II, Chaps. 8-9. 

Ibid., Book I, Chaps. 4-8. 

TheDarkNight, Book I, Chap. 13. 

Summa theologiae, I-II, q. 77, a. 4. 

St. Augustine, The City ofGod, trans. Demetrius Zema (New York: Fathers of the Church, 
1950), Book XIV, Chap. 28. 

TheDarkNight, Book I, Chap. 7. 

Ibid., Chaps. 2-7. 

Ibid., Chap. 8. 

Ibid., Chap. 9. 

Ibid., loc. cit. 

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The ThreeAges of the Interior Life, Vol. II, pp. 52-3, trans. 
TimotheaDoyle (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1947-48). 

TheDarkNight, Book I, Chap. 10. 

Ibid., Chap. 1. 

Ibid., Chap. 14. 

Ibid., Book II, Chap. 3. 

JohnG. Arintero, The Mystical Evolution, trans. Jordán Aumann(St. Louis: B. Herder, 1949) 
Vol. 2, pp. 175-79. 

Means of Spirituál G rowth 

The spirituál life, which consists fundamentally in sanctifying grace made operative by the virtue 
of charity and the other virtues imperated by charity, is a positive, dynamic reality; But the life of 
grace and charity is received into a human nature wounded by originál sin and strongly inclined 
to self-centered love and the works of the flesh. Therefore, St. Thomas states that "at first it is 
incumbent on man to occupy himself chiefly with avoiding sin and resisting his concupiscences, 

which move him in opposition to charity. "(1) 

But purgation and mortification are not ends in themselves; they are simply the means of 
removing the obstacles to. the growth of grace and charity. They comprise what St. Paul 
describes as putting off the old man of Adam and sin, and putting on the new man, Jesus Christ, 
who is the perfect man. But to put on Christ and to grow in his likeness reguire the use of 
positive means by which grace and charity can reach their full expansion and intensity. These 
positive means can be divided into the three principál ones that are necessary for all Christians -- 
the sacraments, meritorious good works, and the prayer of petition -- and certain secondary aids 
to growth in holiness. 

It should be noted at the outset that there is a marked difference in the efficacy of the three 
principál means by which grace and charity are increased. The sacraments are the most 
efficacious, for they produce their effects ex opere operato, that is, they infallibly produce grace 
in those who receive the sacraments with the proper dispositions. The other two means -- 
meritorious good works and the prayer of petition -- produce their effects ex opere operantis, that 
is, their efficacy depends on the dispositions of the human agent, working under the impetus of 
grace and relying on Goďs benevolent love. 

If we were to arrange these three means in the order of their efficacy, we would list first the 
sacraments, then meritorious good works, and finally the prayer of petition. Without in any way 
disdaining good works and the prayer of petition, we recall the words of the Fathers of Vatican 
Council II: "It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that the faithful should easily understand 
the sacramental signs, and should eagerly freguent those sacraments which were instituted to 
nourish the Christian life."(2) 

The Sacraments 

Traditionally the sacraments háve been described as sensible signs instituted by Christ to bestow 
grace on those who receive them. As the Word made flesh, and therefore a visible sign of the 
Fatheťs love for us, and as the Mediator and the Source of the life of grace, Jesus Christ is the 
first and greatest sacrament. Christian spirituality is a sharing in the mystery of Christ, indeed, in 
the life that is Christ; the sacraments are instmments of the divine power of Christ, effecting 
grace in the recipient through the merits of his passion and death. 

The sacraments are signs or symbols that actually effect what they signify, and what they signify 
constitutes the reality of the life of grace. The sign alone, such as the pouring of water, anointing 
with oil, or sharing in bread and wine, could mean many things, but when these signs are true 
sacraments, they háve a meaning, a relationship to a reality that was specified by Christ himself. 

The sign or action passes, but the reality of the effect, the grace received through the merits of 
Christ, remains. The sacraments, like the deeds of Christ, retain their sanctifying power for all 
time. Thus, the Council of Trent solemnly affirmed that the sacraments of the New Law confer, 
grace ex opere operato, that is, by their own intrinsic power, so long as the recipient places no 
obstacle to the reception of grace.(3) 

In view of the foregoing, we can also describe the sacraments as actions of Christ in and through 
the Church for the bestowal of grace on those who accept him in faith. We emphasize the phrase 
"in and through the Church" because Vatican Council II did not hesitate to say that "the Church, 

in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament -- a sign and instrument that is, of communion with God 
and of unity among all men."í41 It is in the Church, the mystical body of Christ that "the life of 
Christ is communicated to those who believe and who, through the sacraments, are united in a 
hidden and reál way to Christ in his passion and qlorification."(5) 

This statement has several important pastorál implications: (1) In her sacramental actions the 
Church does and wills what Christ does and wills, because the Church as holý is united with 
Christ and because he gave the Church authority over the administration of tne sacraments. (2) 
All apoštoláte and ministry, even the lofty mission of preaching the Gospel, should lead people 
to the sacraments, which are, within the framework of the liturgy, "the summit toward which the 
activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows. For the 
goal of apostolic endeavor is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should 
come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to také part in the Sacrifice and to eat the 
Lorďs Supper."(6) (3) The Church as sacrament, and as commissioned by Christ to bring all 
peoples to him through the sacraments, serveš as a basis for determining the essence and goal of 
priestly ministry. 

On the part of the recipient, an understanding of the sacraments as points of contact with Christ 
can do much to dispel the notion that the sacramental signs and gestures are some kind of magie 
formula that works automaticaHy. It may likewise help Christians to avoid a routine and 
monotonous reception of the sacraments, especially regrettable in the reception of the Eucharist 
and the sacrament of penance. 

In theological terms we would say that the sacramental effect ex opere operato must be 
conjoined to the effect ex opere operantis. St Thomas Aquinas teaches that the degree of grace 
received in the worthy reception of a sacrament will depend ultimately on the intensity and 
perfection of one's disposition,{7) and since the moment for receiving grace is the . moment of 
sacramental contact with Christ through the Church, one should strive to approach the 
sacraments with the greatest possible faith, devotion, and love. 

Since the sacraments are specific ways of participating in the mystery of Christ, the grace given 
through the sacraments should comespond to specific needs in the Christian life, and this should 
be signified by the matter and form of the sacrament. St. Thomas demonstrates that the grace 
flowing from each sacrament is a speciál grace proper to the sacrament in question, and that each 
sacrament corresponds to a particular need of the Christian as an individual or as a member of 
the Christian community. 

The life of the spirit has a certain similarity to the life of the body, just as other corporeal 
things háve a certain likeness to spirituál things. Now man is perfected in his bodily life 
in two ways: first, with respect to his own person; secondly, with respect to the whole 
sociál community in which he lives. With regand to his private šelf, man is perfected both 
directly, by acquiring some vital perfection, and indirectly, by removing sieknesses and 
the like, which are hindrances to his bodily life. 

There are three ways by which the life of the body is directly perfected: 

First, by generation, by which a man begins to exist and to live. Corresponding to this in 
the life of the spirit is baptism, which, according to the Epistle to Titus (3:5), is a spirituál 


Secondly, by growth, by which one is brought to full size and strength. Corresponding to 
ťhis in the life of tne spirit is confirmation, tne sacrament in which the Holý Spirit is 
given to strengthen men. Because of this the disciples already baptized were told: "Wait 
here in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). 

Thirdly, by nourishment, which conserves a man's life and strength. The Eucharist 
corresponds to this in the life of the spirit. Thus Christ said: "Unless you eat the flesh of 
the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not háve life in you" (John 6:54). 

If man's life, both bodily and spirituál, were inaccessible to harm, this would suffice. But 
since man at times suffers infirmity, both bodily infirmity and the spirituál infirmity 
which is sin, he needs a cure for his malady, and this is twofold: 

One is the healing which restores health. And corresponding to this in the life of the spirit 
is penance, as Psalm 40:5 points out: "Heal my soul, for I háve sinned against thee." 

The other cure is the restoration of former vigor by suitable exercise and diet. In the 
spirituál life the anointing corresponds to this, for it removes the remains of sin and 
prepares a man for his finál glory. Hence in the Epistle of St. James (5:15) it is said: "If 
he be in sins, they shall be forgiven nim." 

With respect to the whole community, man is perfected in two ways: 

First, by receiving the power to govern the community and to exercise public office. In 
the life of the spirit the sacrament of holý orders corresponds to this. As the Epistle to the 
Hebrews (7:27) points out, priests offer sacrifice not for themselves alone but for the 

Secondly, by natural propagation. Both in the corporeal and in the spirituál order this is 
accomplished by matrimony, which is not only a sacrament but also a function of 

Since our concern is primarily with the sacraments as positive means of personál growth in 
holiness, it is under this aspect that we shall now discuss each sacrament in particular. 


Baptism, the first sacrament instituted by Christ, constitutes a new birth into the life of grace, as 
Jesus declared in his statement to Nicodemus: "I solemnly assure you, no one can enter into 
Goďs kingdom without being begotten of water and Spirit. Flesh begets flesh, Spirit begets 
spirit" (John 3:5-6). Baptism is par excellence the sacrament of faith, as is evident from the fact 
that Jesus commissioned the apostles to preach the Gospel to all nations and to "baptize them in 
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holý Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). 

According to St. Paul, baptism is a dying in Christ and a resurrection in Christ to a new life 
(Rom. 6:3-11), signifying first of all the intimate union of the baptized with Chrisťs paschal 
mystery and secondly that, as a result of baptism, the Christian must be "dead to sin but alive for 
God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:11). Finally, baptism signifies the incorporation of the Christian 

into Christ and his admission into tne community of tne people of G od as a member of tne 
Mystical Body of Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 12:13). 

Several points are worth noting in regard to the significance of baptism for one's growth in 
holiness. First baptism is a commitment to a way of life and, as is evident in the baptism of adult 
converts, it means a conversion from the past to one's future as a member of Christ and of the 
people of God. Secondly, given our proneness to šelf- love and creature attachments, baptismal 
promises should be renewed, as is doně in the liturgy for the Easter Vigil Mass. Baptism can be 
received only once, and it imprints a lasting spirituál character on the soul, but to remain faithful 
to the Christian way of life in the face of temptations reguires a constant renewal of commitment. 

Lastly, baptism bestows on the recipient the life of sanctifying grace, the infused theological and 
moral virtues, and the gifts of the Holý Spirit. Thus, from the beginning the baptized Christian 
has all the supernatural powers that are needed to grow to the fullness of the Christian life and 
the perfection of charity. Rightly, then, did the Fathers of Vatican Council II statě: 

The followers of Christ called by God not in virtue of their works but by his design and 
grace, and justified in the Lord Jesus, háve been made sons of God in the baptism of faith 
and partakers of the divine nature, and so are truly sanctified. They must therefore hold 
on to and perfect in their lives that sanctification which they háve received from God.(9) 


Traditionally, the sacraments of baptism and confirmation háve been considered the sacraments 
of initiation, although confirmation is also the development and further ratification of the effects 
of baptism. As in domestic life, so also in the Church and in the spirituál life, there is an 
extended period of infancy and childhood, during which the baptized Christian is protected, 
provided for, and educated in the faith; but on reaching sufficient maturity, the Christian must 
step forth as a responsible person in the Christian community and give witness to his or her faith 
by a virtuous life. It is at this phase of development that the young adult receives the Holý Spirit, 
is marked with the seal or character of the sacrament, and is "more strictly obliged to spread and 
defend the faith both by word and by deed as a true witness of Christ" (10) 

It is an article of faith that confirmation is a sacrament of the New Law, that it confers an 
indelible character on the soul, but it is not strictly necessary for salvation. (ll) The sacrament of 
confirmation stems from the promise of Christ to send the Holý Spirit (John 14:16) who will bear 
witness to Christ and will enable those who receive the Spirit to bear witness also (John 15:26). 
In Acts 8:15 ff., there is clear testimony that St Peter and St John imposed hands on some 
Samaritans who had been baptized previously, but in the primitive Church the sacrament of 
confirmation was considered a part of the rite of baptism, a practice still prevalent in the Eastern 

The soul receives at baptism the entire supernatural organism of the spirituál life, including the 
gifts of the Holý Spirit, but at confirmation the mission of the Holý Spirit is like a personál 
Pentecost wherein the soul receives the grace of fortitude to witness to the faith, to stand firm in 
the faith, and to defend the faith. Thus, Christ told the apostles just before his ascension to 
heaven: "Y ou will receive power when the Holý Spirit comes down on you; then you are to be 
my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes, even to the ends of the earth" 

(Acts 1:8). Consequentiy, the sacrament of confiraiation is the sacrament of the Holý Spirit, in 
ťhe sense that it involves a speciál mission of the Holý Spirit to the soul in grace, bestowing the 
particular grace or power proper to the sacrament as well as the permanent character. 

In recent years great emphasis has been placed on the sacrament of confiraiation as the 
sacrament of Catholic Action and the basis of the priesthood of the laity. Pope Pius XII was a 
great promotér of Catholic Action, for he was convinced that the Church needs witnesses even 
more than apologists. In a letter to the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon (1933) he stated: 

In reality, it is the sacraments of baptism and confiraiation themselves which impose, 
among other obligations, that of the apoštoláte; that is to say, the obligation of giving 
spirituál help to one's neighbor. It is true that by confiraiation one becomes a soldier of 
Christ, and everybody recognizes that a soldier must bear fatigue and battle for others 
rather than himself. But, in a way that is much more hidden from the eyes of the 
uninstracted, baptism too imposes the duty of the apoštoláte, since by it we become 
members of the Church, that is to say, of the Mystical Body .... One member should aid 
the other; none can remain inactive; each should contribute in his own turn. 

The apoštoláte, therefore, whether considered as the spirituál and corporal works of mercy or as 
evangelization, is the obligation of every baptized Christian, according to one's statě of life, 
capabilities, and opportunities for apostolic action. This is evident once we grasp the notion that 
apoštoláte comprises any work or deed by which we bring God to souls and souls to God. Since 
all moral activity is specified by its end or goal, authentically apostolic works must always be 
orientated, directly or indirectly, to the spirituál order, that is, the extension of Goďs kingdom, 
the salvation of souls, and the attainment of the perfection of the Christian life. The Fathers of 
the Second Vatican Council háve made some clear and challenging statements on apostolic 

The Church was founded to spread the kingdom of Christ over all the earth for the glory 
of God the Father, to make all men partakers in redemption and salvation, and through 
them to establish the right relationship of the entire world to Christ. Every activity of the 
Mystical Body with this in view goes by the name of "apoštoláte"; the Church exercises it 
through all its members, though in various ways. In fact, the Christian vocation is, of its 
nature, a vocation "to the apoštoláte as well.(12) 

The work of Chrisťs redemption concerns essentially the salvation of men; it takés in 
also, however, the renewal of the whole temporal order. The mission of the Church, 
consequently, is not only to bring men the message and grace of Christ but also to 
permeate and improve the whole range of the temporal .... 

The apoštoláte of the Church therefore, and of each of its members, aims primarily at 
announcing to the world by word and action the message of Christ and communicating to 
it the grace of Christ. The principál means of bringing this about is the ministry of the 
word and of the sacraments. Committed in a speciál way to the clergy, it leaves room 
however for a highly important part for the laity, the part námely of "helping the cause of 
trath" (3 John 8). It is in this sphere most of all that the lay apoštoláte and the pastorál 
ministry complete each other. 

Laymen háve countless opportunities for exercising ťhe apoštoláte of evangelization and 
sanctification. The very witness of a Christian life and the good works doně in a 
supernatural spirit are effective in drawing men to the faith and to God .... The witness of 
life, however, is not the sole element in the apoštoláte; the trne apostle is on the lookout 
for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers to draw them to the 
faith, or to the faithful to instruct them, strengthen them, incite them to a more fervent life 

That men, working in harmony, should renew the temporal order and make it 
increasingly more perfect: such is Goďs design for the worid .... 

Pastors háve the duty to set forth clearly the principles concerning the purpose of creation 
and the use to be made of the worid, and to provide moral and spirituál helps for the 
renewal of the temporal order in Christ. Laymen ought to také on themselves as their 
distinctive task this renewal of the temporal order. Guided by the light of the Gospel and 
the mind of the Church, prompted by Christian love, they should act in this domain in a 
direct way and in their own specific manner. (13) 

The priesthood of the laity is also rooted in baptism and reaffirmed in confirmation, and the 
Fathers of Vatican II insisted that since all Christians are members of the Mystical Body of 
Christ, "all the faithful are made a holý and kingly priesthood." (14) Nevertheless, the lay 
priesthood and the ministerial priesthood "differ essentially and not only in degree," though they 
complement each other and "each in its own way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. "(151 

Although there are various opinions concerning the nature of the priesthood of the laity, it would 
seem that the cultic or sacrificial aspect of the lay priesthood consists in the offering of 
themselves and their actions -- spirituál sacrifices -- to God through Jesus Christ. This is 
indicated in the statement of St. Paul: "And now, brothers, I beg you through the mercy of God 
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holý and acceptable to God, your spirituál worship" 
(Rom. 12:1). But the "ministry" of the lay priesthood, wherein it cooperates dosely with the 
ministerial priesthood, is in the area of apostolic action and doctrinal evangelization. This would 
seem to be the teaching of the Fathers of Vatican Council II, who connect the priesthood of the 
laity with the apoštoláte: 

The laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly office of Christ; they 
háve, therefore, in the Church and in the worid, their own assignment in the mission of 
the whole people of God. In the concrete, their apoštoláte is exercised when they work at 
the evangelization and sanctification of men; it is exercised too when they endeavor to 
háve the Gospel spirit permeate and improve the temporal order, going about it in a way 
that bears clear witness to Christ and helps forward the salvation of men. The 
characteristic of the lay statě being a life led in the midst of the worid and of secular 
affairs, laymen are called by God to make of their apoštoláte, through the vigor of their 
Christian spirit, a leaven in the world. (16) 

The Eucharist 

The Eucharist may be considered under two aspects: as sacrament and as sacrifice. The Eucharist 
as sacrifice is the Mass, and the Mass is substantially the samé sacrifice as that of Calvary: the 

samé victim, the samé oblation, the samé priest. Such is tne teaching of tne Council of Trent: 

In the divine sacrifice that is offered in the Mass, the samé Christ who offered himself 
once in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross is present and is offered in an unbloody 
manner .... For it is one and the samé victim: he who now makes the offering through the 
ministry of priests and he who then offered himself on the Cross; the only difference is in 
the manner of offering. The benefits of this oblation are received in abundance through 
this unbloody oblation. (17) 

The event that reveals the true meaning of the Last Supper and the Eucharist that was instituted 
there is the Sacrifice of the Cross, which changed the Passover from a memoriál meal to a true 
sacrifice. Thus, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: 

I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night 
when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 
"This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the samé way also 
the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often 
as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the 
cup, you proclaim the Lorďs death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:23-26). 

In 1967 the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued an instruction conceming the Eucharist ii 8) and 
it contains numerous statements that are of help in understanding the nature and purpose of the 
Eucharist. It begins by stating that "the mystery of the Eucharist is the true center for the sacred 
liturgy and indeed of the whole Christian life." Then, touching upon the doctrinal principles that 
háve been further developed in recent years, the instruction emphasizes the following 
conclusions: (1) the Mass is a sacrifice in which the sacrifice of the Cross, is perpetuated; it is a 
memoriál of the death and Resurrection of the Lord; it is a sacred banguet in which the people of 
God share the benefits of the Paschal Sacrifice; (2) in the Mass, therefore, sacrifice and sacred 
meal are linked together by the closest bond, so much so that the Mass may be described as a 
"sacrificial meal"; the Lord entrusted this sacrifice to the Church so that the faithful might share 
in it spiritually (through faith and charity) and sacramentally, through the reception of 
Communion; (3) the eucharistie sacrifice is the source and the summit of the Churchs worship 
and of the Christian life; (4) the faithful participate more fully in this sacrament of thanksgiving, 
propitiation, petition, and praise not only when they offer the victim and themselves to the 
Father, but when they receive this victim in Communion; (5) the mystery of the Eucharist 
consists in its fullness not only in the celebration of Mass but in devotion to the sacred species 
reserved on the altar. From these basic statements the instruction then proceeds to lay down 
specific regulations conceming the Eucharist, but since they pertain to the pastorál and liturgical 
aspects, of Mass and Eucharist, it is not necessary for us to discuss them. Rather, we shall make 
some observations on the four purposes and effects of the Mass. 

Since the Mass is substantially the samé sacrifice as that of Christ on the Cross, it has the samé 
purposes and produces the samé effects. The first is adoration, and this effect is always produced 
ex opere operato because of the infinite dignity of the principál priest, who is Christ, and because 
of the infinite worth of the victim of sacrifice, who is also Christ. There is no greater way of 
giving honor and glory to God than by offering to him his beloved Son in whom he is well 
pleased. This fact alone should call forth the greatest possible reverence and devotion of the 
priest who celebrates the Mass and the faithful who participate in it. 

After adoration, there is no obligation more pressing ťhan that of reparation for sin. In this sense 
ťhe value of the Mass is unsurpassed in making atonement for our own sins and ťhe sins of 
others, since in this eucharistie sacrifice we offer to the heavenly Father the redemptive action of 
the Lamb of God who takés away the sins of the world. But the reparatory effects of the Mass are 
applied to us only in accordance with our dispositions. Hence, we can receive from the Mass, 
unless we pláce an obstacle to it, the actual grace to repent of our sins; indeed there is no more 
efficacious means for obtaining the conversion of sinners. Secondly, the Mass will remit, if there 
is no obstacle, at least part of the temporal punishment due to sin. From this stems the great value 
of the Mass as a suffrage for the souls in purgatory, who can do nothing to help themselves since 
they are beyond the stage of meriting. Confessors should also consider imposing on their 
penitents the sacramental penance of having a Mass offered in reparation for their sins. 

As children of the heavenly Father, we should go to him with our petitions. But in the Mass, 
Jesus is always making intercession forus (Heb. 7:25), supporting our petitions by his infinite 
merits. Without disdaining other spirituál exercises and devotions, which produce their effects ex 
opere operantis, pastors and preachers should educate the faithful concerning the incomparable 
impetratory power of the Mass. Of all the forms of liturgical prayer, that of petition is the most 
freguent, and when our petitions are joined to the prayers of the Church and the worshipping 
community at Mass, blending with the intercessory prayer of Christ our Priest and Redeemer, 
how can the heavenly Father fail to grant our lawful reguests? 

The fourth value or function of the Mass is thanksgiving. We owe a debt of thanks to God that 
can nevěr be adeguately repaid, but just as we needed the Son of God to atone for our sins and 
intercede forus, so we can call upon this samé Mediator to retům thanks to the Father. If, in 
offering a Mass for a particular intention, we háve called upon Christ to plead for us with the 
Father, we should feel obliged by a sense of gratitude to offer another Mass in thanksgiving 
through the samé Christ our Lord. Together with adoration, thanksgiving constitutes a foretaste 
of glory, where all the blessed for all eternity are oceupied with praise and thanksgiving to the 

In speaking of the Eucharist as sacrament, Vatican Council II states: 

Christ is always present in his Church, especiaHy in her liturgical celebrations. He is 
present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister,... but especially 
in the eucharistie species .... The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the 
Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows. For the goal of 
apostolic endeavor is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should 
come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to také part in the Sacrifice and 
to eat the Lorďs Supper. (19) 

The faithful achieve a more perfect participation in the Mass when, with proper 
dispositions, they receive the body of the Lord sacramentaHy in the Mass itself, in 
obedience to his words, "také and eat." (20) 

For the faithful and the celebrant, therefore, the culmination of the Mass is reception of Holý 
Communion. It is in every sense of the word an incorporation into Christ, who comes to us in 
this sacrament.. Through the gift of sanctifying grace, the individual Christian share's in the very 
nature and life of God and is thereby a dwelling- pláce of the three Persons of the Trinity. Worthy 

Communion increases sanctifying grace in the soul of the recipient and thus produces a new 
mission of the Holý Spirit and greater receptivity to the, indwelling Trinity . 

Some manuals of sacramental theology emphasize the distinction between sacrament and 
sacrifice in the Eucharist; but, various statements of the Church during and since Vatican 
Council II urge us to reunite these two aspects and to see the Mass, and Communion as a 
sacrificial meal. The words of consecration are words, that bespeak a sacrifice -- a body that is 
broken and blood that is shed -- and the consuming of the victim as food for the spirituál 
nourishment of Christians is also a sacrificial act. In the reception of Communion the priesthood 
of the laity is admitted to its highest cultic or liturgical act. It should be evident from the 
foregoing that the Christian life is eminently eucharistie: incorporation in Christ who comes to us 
under the sacramental species. 

For the worthy reception of Communion, it is necessary, as remote dispositions, that one be in 
the statě of grace and háve the right intention. The first is necessary because the Eucharist is a 
sacrament of the living; the second is reguired because the worthy reception of any sacrament 
demands sufficient knowledge and proper intention . (21) 

But since the grace received from Communion depends ultimately on the dispositions of the 
recipient it is also necessary to make a proximate preparation for receiving the Eucharist. The 
first reguisite is faith, and for this reason, after the consecration of the sacred species, the 
celebrant of the Mass invites the congregation in the words: "Let us proclaim the mystery of 
faith." St. Thomas points out that on the Cross the divinity of Christ was hidden, but on the altar 
and in the Eucharist even his sacred humanity is veiled from our eyes. It is truly a sacrament of 

Secondly, one should approach the Eucharist with profound reverence and deep humility. 
Therefore, just before receiving Communion, we say: "Lord, I am not worthy." If the Virgin 
Mary proclaimed her lowliness as handmaid of the Lord before receiving into her womb the 
Word made flesh, and if she again confessed her humble statě in the Magnificat, how much more 
should we sinners approach the immaculate Lamb with reverence and humility. 

Thirdly, one should receive the eucharistie Lord with loving confidence, trusting in the infinite 
love and mercy of the eucharistie Heart of Jesus who came among us precisely to redeem and 
savé us. As our Good Shepherd he will welcome us with joy and také us in his arms to shield us 
from danger and comfort us with his tender love. 

We cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of cultivating the proper dispositions for the 
fruitful reception of Communion. Indeed, since the moment of grace is the moment of contact 
with the sacramental matter and form, preparation for Communion is much more necessary and 
more important than thanksgiving after Communion. However, since Christ is present as long as 
the sacramental species remain, it would be irreverent not to spend at least that time in prayerful 
thanksgiving and recollection. What better opportunity is offered us for presenting our numerous 
petitions to the good Jesus as when he is tabemacled within us? Since the Church has legislated 
that we should normally receive Communion within the Mass and has also stipulated that there 
be a period of silent prayer after Communion, priests should be considerate in allowing this time 
of thanksgiving to the congregation before ending the Mass. 

Alťhough in modem times the ease and frequency for receiving sacramental Communion háve 
resulted in less emphasis on the practice of spirituál Communion, it is nevertheless a 
praiseworthy devotion. The Council of Trent had stated that there are three ways of receiving the 
Eucharist: sacramentally only, spiritually only, and both sacramentally and spiritually .(22) The 
first čase would apply to sinners who receive Communion, lacking grace and charity; the second 
čase applies to those who with a living faith that works through charity express a fervent desire 
to receive the Eucharist; lastly, they receive the Eucharist both sacramentally and spiritually who 
receive Communion with the proper dispositions of faith, charity, and devotion. A 11 worthy 
Communions are spirituál, and even when the Communion is spirituál but not sacramental, it 
receives its value from its orientation to sacramental Communion. The effects of spirituál 
Communion depend on the intensity of one's faith and the fervor of one's love for the Blessed 
Sacrament (ex opere operantis), and it is an excellent way of uniting oneself with the eucharistie 
Lord and with the Masses being offered throughout the world to the glory and praise of the 


The sacrament of penance has been called a "second baptism," but a difficult and sometimes 
painful one because of the need to acknowledge one's sin, do penance, and amend one's life. 
Christ gave his apostles, and through them their successors, the power to forgive sins. Thus, the 
Council of Trent affirmed that Christ instituted the sacrament of penance particularly at the time 
when, after rising from the dead, he breathed upon his disciples and said, "Receive the Holý 
Spirit; for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they 
are retained" (John 20:23). 

In instituting the sacrament of penance, Christ did not specify in particular the integrál parts of 
the sacrament or the formula of absolution. This is determined by the Church, although the 
Council of Trent specified that contrition, confession, and satisfaction are, by divine institution 
(exDei institutione), necessary for the full and perfect remission of sins. (23) Moreover, the samé 
Council declared that the priest must make a judgment conceming the sins committed, which he 
cannot do unless he knows the sins; therefore the integrál confession of one's sins was also 
instituted by Christ, and the Council refers to James 5:16; 1 John 1:9; and Luke 5:14; 17:14. 

The sacrament of penance has both a personál and a communal aspect. So far as it relates to the 
individual penitent, it calls for conversion from sin (metanoia) and the resolve to amend one's 
life; as regards the Christian community, it signifies that the sinner, now forgiven, has been 
reconciled with the people of God. But conversion from sin and forgiveness are not granted 
without repentance. Consequently, the actuation of the virtue of penitence provides the necessary 
dispositions for worthy reception of the sacrament of penance. 

The virtue of penitence or repentance includes sorrow for one's past sins as offenses against God 
and the resolve not to sin again. It comprises the second act required for the sacrament, námely 
contrition, and it also connotes conversion of life or metanoia. As St. Thomas says: "Penitence is 
not considered a speciál virtue only because it grieves over evil committed -- charity would 
suffice for this -- but because the penitent grieves over sin committed as it is an offense against 
God and because he has the purpose of amendment."(24) 

Since the acts of contrition, confession, and satisfaction constitute the proximate matter of the 

sacrament of penance, the virtue of penitence is not only a necessary disposition for worthy 
reception of the sacrament; it is also an essential or integrál part of the sacrament itself . It will 
admit of varying degrees of intensity, however, and the more perfect it is, the better disposed is 
the recipient to receive more graces through the sacrament. 

An intense and universal sorrow for sin can obtain for the soul not only forgiveness of all sins 
and remission of the temporal punishment due to them, but also a considerable increase in 
sanctifying grace, thus raising the soul to a higher degree of holiness. It is important to realize 
that on regaining the statě of grace in the sacrament of . penance, one does not receive grace in 
the samé degree as possessed prior to mortal sin, but according to one's actual disposition in 
receiving the sacrament. (25) 

As regards conversion of life, if the purpose of amendment is lacking, the confession is invalid; 
and theologians generally list three gualities as essential: it must be a /Irm determination here and 
now not to sin again; it must be efficacious, that is, a willingness to use the usual safeguards 
against sin and avoid the occasions of sin; and it must be universal, that is, a resolve to avoid all 
mortal. sins: Persons who normally confess only venial sins or absolved mortal sins of the past 
should be especially careful to avoid routine and mechanical confession of sins without a 
purpose of amendment. As we háve said, the lack of a firm purpose of amendment invalidates 
the sacrament. 

In addition to having sorrow for sin and the firm purpose of amendment, the penitent should 
prepare for confession by an adeguate examination of conscience. By Church law, "penitents 
must disclose in confession all the mortal sins of which they are conscious after a diligent 
examination of conscience, even if these sins be most hidden and committed against the last two 
commandments only. Moreover, even those circumstances that change the species of the sin 
must be mentioned in confession." (26) 

Mortal sins already forgiven and actual venial sins are considered "free matter" for confession; 
that is, the penitent may renew sorrow for forgiven mortal sins and may confess only 
predominant or noteworthy venial sins. The reason for this is that such penitents are already in 
the statě of grace and hence their confessions are called "confessions of devotion." Two things 
should be noted about the repetition of absolved mortal sins: (1) for persons who are weak in 
virtue the recollection may be the occasion of a temptation to sin again, particularly if it is a sin 
of sensuality; (2) persons who tend to be scrupulous or are easily put in a statě of doubt and 
anxiety should not normally confess mortal sins that háve been confessed and forgiven. God 
forgives and forgets, as Jeremiah says: "I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no 
more" (Jer. 31:34). 

The examination of conscience should be made with the greatest sincerity and humility, with a 
serene and impartial spirit, without excusing our defects and without straining scrupulously to 
see faults where there are none. The time given to this examination will vary with the freguency 
of one's confessions, the need of the soul, and the degree of perfection of the soul at any given 
time. An excellent means of simplifying this task is to make a daily examination of conscience 
and to notě especially those things that must be subjected to the confessor in the tribunál of 
penance. If one does this daily, it will také but a few moments to make a mental review before 
approaching confession. Moreover, this proceduře has the advantage of keeping one's faults in 
mind during the week and of avoiding the anxiety that would be caused by forgetting to mention 

some sin at tne time of confession. 

But it is especially important that one should not lose oneself in a multitude of unnecessary 
details. It is of much more importance to be able to discover tne cause of distractions in prayer 
than to be able to recall tne exact number of times that one was distracted. Some would endeavor 
to do the impossible in seeking mathematical precision regarding the number of venial sins or 
imperfections, when it would be much more profitable for them to attack the causes of these sins 
directly rather than to spend so much time counting the external manifestations. This is to be 
understood, naturally, in regard to venial sins, because if it is a guestion of grave sins, it is 
necessary to confess the number exactly, or with the greatest possible precision. 

There is no doubt that confession made with the foregoing conditions is of a great efficacy in the 
sanctification of the soul. The following are the effects of such a worthy confession: 

1. The Blood of Christ has fallen upon the soul to purify and sanctify it. Therefore, the 
saints who received the most vivid light conceming the infinite value of the redeeming 
Blood of Jesus had a veritable hunger and thirst for receiving sacramental absolution. 

2. Grace is increased in us, but in different degrees, according to the disposition of the 
penitent. Of one hundred persons who háve received absolution from the samé faults, 
there may not be two who háve received grace in the samé degree. It will depend on the 
intensity of their repentance and the degree of humility with which they háve approached 
the sacrament. 

3. The soul is filled with peace and consolation, a great help for making progress on the 
road to perfection. 

4. Greater lights are received conceming the ways of God. Thus, after a worthy 
confession we understand more clearly the necessity of forgiving injuries, seeing how 
mercifully the Lord has pardoned us; or we understand with greater clarity the malice of 
venial sin, which is a stain that deprives the soul of some of its brilliance and beauty. 

5. It increases considerably the powers of the soul by imparting the energy and the 
strength to conguer temptations and the fortitude to fulfill one's duties perfectly. 


The Catholic Church professes and teaches that the sacred anointing of the sick is one of 
the seven sacraments of the New Testament that it was instituted by Christ and that it is 
alluded to in Mark 6:13 and recommended and promulgated to the faithful by James the 
Apostle and brother of the Lord. "If any one of you is ill," he says, "he should send for 
the elders of the Church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and 
pray over him. The prayer of faith will savé the sick man and the Lord will raise him up 
again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:14-15.) (27) 

Since the promulgation of Pope Paul VVsApostolic Constitution and the revision of the Roman 
Rituál, the sacrament may be now administered as soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in 
danger of death from illness or old age. Accordingly, Vatican Council II has stated: "Extréme 
unction, which may also and more fittingly be called 'anointing of the sick,' is not a sacrament for 

ťhose only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as any one of ťhe faithful begins to be in 
danger of death from sickness or old age ; the appropriate time for him to receive this sacrament 
has certainly already arrived." (28) 

The reform of the sacrament of anointing reflects at once a return to the originál Christian 
practice (there is no mention of danger of death in the Epistle of St. James) and also a more 
maternal concem of the Church for those who are seriously ill or :incapacitated by old age. 

Moreover, the sick give witness to other Christians of that which is inevitable -- death -- and of 
the unum necessarium: salvation through the merits of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. 
They can also sanctify their suffering and pain by uniting themselves with the cmcified Christ 
and the Sorrowful M other, a very helpful way to share in the mystery of Christ. O r they can offer 
their sufferings as atonement for their own sins and the sins of others, something all the sick 
would do eageriy if they could fully realize the suffering of the souls in purgatory. It is in the last 
sense that some authors háve spoken of the sacrament of anointing as the completion of the 
sacrament of penance, since it has as one of its purposes to rid the soul of the remnants of sin and 
thus liberate the soul completely. 

For the Christian, pain and suffering are sanctified and transformed by the virtue of hope which 
rests on faith in Christ Jesus, who said: "I telí you truly: you will weep and mourn, while the 
world rejoices; you will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy" (John 16:20). 

The aging háve a speciál problém, for they may be perfectly healthy; they are not, like the sick, 
hoping to retům to their former condition; they háve reached a point of no retům. Not only that, 
but the aged feel isolated, left out of community life and sharing. At the samé time, the aged 
háve a grace-filled opportunity to grow in wisdom and in humility based on tmth and 
self-acceptance. Their very isolation enables them to acceptthe two ultimate realities of life: God 
and šelf. From this comes a self-affirmation that gives peace and a deep trust in Goďs loving 
providence. Then death is seen as the transit to the fulfillment of all that they háve worked for 
and loved in this life. "I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the 
glory to be revealed in us. Indeed, the whole created world eageriy awaits the revelation of the 
sons of God" (Rom. 8:18-19). 


In discussing the last two sacraments -- matrimony and holý orders -- we are dealing with 
sacraments that are especiaHy communal or sociál in their orientation. 

The first chapters of Genesis reveal to us Goďs pian in the creation of man and woman and 
likewise the purposes of their conjugal union. It follows from this divine instmction that 
matrimony is the natural and normál vocation for every man and woman. There are always those 
who for one reason or another will choose a celibáte life, but the first presumption should always 
be for marriage. Thus, anyone who takés a vow or makes a promise to lead a celibáte life should 
háve positive reasons for so doing; conversely, a person who enters the married statě should háve 
the gualities and dispositions necessary for conjugal life and possible parenthood. 

In the Pastorál Constitution on the Church in the Modem World the Fathers of Vatican Council 
II devoted an entire chapter to marriage and the family. 

God himself is ťhe author of marriage and has endowed it with various benefits and with 
various ends in view: all of these háve a very important bearing on the continuation of the 
human race, on the personál development and etemal destiny of every member of the 
family, on the dignity, stability, peace, and prosperity of the family, and of the whole 
human race. By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to 
the procreation and education of the offspring, and it is in them that it finds its crowning 
glory. Thus the man and woman, who "are no longer two but one" (Matt. 19:6), help and 
serve each other by their marriage partnership; they become conscious of their unity and 
experience it more deeply from day to day. The intimate union of marriage, as a mutual 
giving of two persons, and the good of the children demand total fidelity from the 
spouses and reguire an unbreakable unity between them. 

Christ our Lord has abundantly blessed this love, which is rich in its various features, 
coming as it does from the spring of divine love and modeled on Chrisťs own union with 
the Church. Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and 
fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses 
through the sacrament of marriage. He abides with them in order that by their mutual 
self-giving spouses will love each other with enduring fidelity, as he loved the Church 
and delivered himself for it. Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is 
directed and enriched by the redemptive power of Christ and the salvific action of the 
Church, with the result that the spouses are effectively led to God and are helped and 
strengthened in their lofty role as fathers and mothers. Spouses, therefore, are fortified 
and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their statě by a speciál 
sacrament; fulfilling their conjugal and family role by virtue of this sacrament, spouses 
are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, and their whole life is suffused by faith, hope, and 
charity; thus they increasingly further their own perfection and their mutual 
sanctification, and togetherthey render glory to God .... 

Married love is an eminently human love because it is an affection between two persons 
rooted in the will and it embraces the good of the whole person; it can enrich the 
sentiments of the spirit and their physical expression with a unigue dignity, and ennoble 
them as the speciál elements and signs of the friendship properte marriage. The Lord, 
wishing to bestow speciál gifts of grace and divine love on it, has restored, perfected, and 
elevated it. A love like that, bringing together the human and the divine, leads the 
partners to a free and mutual giving of šelf, experienced in tenderness and action, and 
permeates their whole lives; besides, this love is actually developed and increased by the 
exercise of it .... 

Married love is uniguely expressed and perfected by the exercise of the acts properte 
marriage. Hence the acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the 
spouses takés pláce are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts 
fosters the šelf giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude. Endorsed 
by mutual fidelity and, above all, consecrated by Chrisťs sacrament, this love abides 
faithfully in mind and body in prosperity and adversity and hence excludes both adultery 
and divorce. The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in 
the egual personál dignity which must be accorded to man and wife in mutual and 
unreserved affection. Outstanding courage is reguired for the constant fulfillment of the 

duties of this Christian calling; spouses, therefore, will need grace for leading a holý life: 
ťhey will eagerly practice a love that is firm, generous, and prompt to sacrifice and will 
ask for it in their prayers. 

Authentic married love will be held in high esteem, and healthy public opinion will be 
guick to recognize it, if Christian spouses give outstanding witness to faithfulness and 
harmony in their love, if they are conspicuous in their concern for the education of their 
children, and if they play their part in a much needed cultural, psychological, and sociál 
renewal in matters of marriage and family. It is imperative to give suitable and timely 
instruction to young people, above all in the heart of their own families, about the dignity 
of married love, its role, and its exercise; in this way they will be able to engage in 
honorable courtship and enter upon marriage of their own. (29) 


The sacrament of holý orders confers the priesthood of Jesus Christ, either fully or in a limited 
degree, on those who receive it. Bishops alone, as successors of the apostles, háve the fullness of 
Christian priesthood, and to them belongs the office of pastor and teacher over the local church 
committed to their care. The ministerial priesthood has evolved, historically and theologically, 
from the episcopacy, and priests are dependent upon the bishops for the exercise of their priestly 
ministry. The diaconate is the lowest and most limited grade of holý orders, and it may be 
conferred on those who will ultimately be advanced to the priesthood or on those -- lay deacons 
-- who intend to remain permanently in the diaconate ministry to assist the priests in preaching, 
administering the sacraments, and celebrating the liturgy. 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was sent into the world for the redemption of mankind. Filled with 
the Holý Spirit, he preached the good news of reconciliation between God and men. Exercising a 
supreme and unigue priesthood by offering himself on Calvary as the victim for sin and thus 
paying the price of our redemption, he was constituted the "one mediator between God and 
mankind" (1 Tim. 2:5). Conseguently, Jesus Christ is also the unigue Priest of the New 
Covenant, and his priesthood will nevěr pass away; itis forever (cf. Heb. chaps. 3-11). 

The Church that Christ founded on Peter as its rock was from the beginning a hierarchical 
Church because of the ministry of word and sacrament committed to the apostles. In the words of 
Tertullian: "The Church from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God." But 
the Church is likewise established as a sacrament of salvation that comes to us from God in 
Christ. Intimately united with Christ as Head, the Church is an organic body that shares in the 
various functions of Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King. Hence, all the people of God constitute a 
priestly people. 

However, to the apostles was given a ministry that differed specifically from the ministry of the 
priesthood of the laity, and particularly as regards the prophetic ministry of the word, the priestly 
ministry of the sacraments, and the kingly or pastorál ministry of govemment of the churches. To 
provide for the continuation of these various ministries, the apostles designated certain men to be 
pastors of the flock. 

The ministerial priest is therefore configured to Christ through the gift of the Holý Spirit and the 
character received at ordination, which is given through the Church and administered by the 

bishop. The priesťhood received is the priesthood of Christ, as is the power that is meant to be 
ušed for the service of the people. The priest is therefore a man for others and is ordained for 
ministry. But the ministry is exercised in dependence on the bishop, although it is always 
orientated to the whole Church, to build up the body of Christ and extend his kingdom. It is 
eminently a spirituál ministry and even when it touches the temporal or secular order, it is always 
in view of man's sanctification and salvation, as was the ministry of Christ and the apostles. 

Like all Christians, bishops and priests are obliged by their baptismal commitment to strive for 
the perfection of charity and configuration to Christ but theirs is a speciál obligation by reason 
of their priestly ordination and their pastorál ministry. The priest is identified with mission and, 
as we háve seen, he should sanctify himself by the very works of his ministry; but prior to that 
in his very person, he has been sealed by the Holý Spirit and configured to Christ as alter 
Christus. Therefore, in speaking of the priesťs call to perfection, Vatican Council II states that 
there is a relationship between the holiness of the priest and the fruitfulness of his ministry and 
"God ordinarily prefers to show his wonders through those men who are more submissive to the 
impulse and guidance of the Holý Spirit and who, because of their intimate union with Christ and 
their holiness of life, are able to say with St Paul: 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives 
inme" 1 (Gal. 2:20). (M 

Meritorious G ood Works 

The second positive means for growth in grace and holiness is meritorious good works that, as 
the term indicates, comprise all the virtuous acts entitling the individual to an increase of grace 
and virtue. One normally thinks first of the spirituál and corporal works of mercy or of apoštoláte 
and ministry as good works, and it is on this basis that many Christians distinguish the active 
from the contemplative life or love of neighbor from love of God. 

However, if these distinctions are pushed too far, one would háve to conclude that the only 
meritorious. good works are those that constitute a service to neighbor in the performance of 
corporal or spirituál works of the apoštoláte. But this is tantamount to saying that the first precept 
of charity is love of neighbor and that the contemplative life as such is not meritorious -- 
conclusions obviously at variance with the teaching of Christ and the principles of spirituál 

St. Thomas offers a clear explanation of merit in relation to action and contemplation: 

The root of merit is charity. Although charity embraces the love of God and neighbor,... 
to love God in himself is more meritorious than to love one's neighbor .... Therefore that 
which belongs more directly to the love of God is more meritorious on the basis of object 
than that which belongs to the love of neighbor because of God. 

Now the contemplative life has direct and immediate reference to the love of God .... But 
the active life is more directly ordained to the love of neighbor .... Therefore in its nature 
the contemplative life is of greater merit than the active life .... 

Nevertheless it may happen that a person will merit more in the works of the active life 
than does another in the activities of the contemplative life; for example, if, out of an 
abundance of divine love, a person consents to be separated from the sweetness of divine 
contemplation for a time to fulfill Goďs will and for his qlory. (31) 

The terms active life and contemplative life are ambiguous because they may refer to a statě of 
life (such as active religious and contemplative religious); they may mean tne type of activity 
that predominates at a given moment in the life of an individual (e.g., the contemplative 
exercises of an apostle or the good works of a contemplative); or they may signify in generál the 
works of mercy as compared with one's interior life of prayer and recollection. In the spirituál 
life of the individual Christian, however, both the activity of the interior life (contemplative) and 
the activity of extemal works are necessary; they should complement each other and both should 
be directed to the glory of God underthe impetus of charity. Indeed, if properly balanced, the 
works of the active life are conducive to the contemplative activity of prayer and recollection; 
conversely, the interior life should be the source of apostolic activity, at the risk of reducing the 
apoštoláte to humanistic philanthropy or sociál work. 

Good Works 

When we speak of meritorious good works as a means of growth in grace and holiness, we are 
referring primarily and essentially not to the extemal acts of apoštoláte and ministry, but to the 
virtues from which those extemal works proceed. 

The reason for this is that the extemal works are good in the measure that they are directed to a 
morally good object or end; extemal works are meritorious in the measure that they proceed 
from charity, which constitutes the supernatural motivation for the work. Now, it is evident that a 
person can perform the extemal work without possessing the supernatural virtue corresponding 
to that work (as in the čase of a person in the statě of mortal sin), or a person may perform the 
action without the necessary interior dispositions (cf. Matt. 6:1). In neither čase is the extemal 
good work productive of an increase in grace. Therefore it is necessary to insist that extemal 
good works should proceed from the proper interior dispositions and that growth in holiness 
through meritorious good works applies first and foremost to the operation of the infused virtues. 

As morally good operative habits, the virtues are ordained to action, but the formal and 
distinctive element of virtue is that it is a hábit, an interior guality or disposition by which the 
human faculties are perfected in their operations. Every human faculty has a purpose or goal that 
is the reason for its existence and when an individual by deliberate control acts in view of that 
purpose, he or she contributes to completeness and perfection as a person. 

Therefore Aristotle described virtue as a hábit that makes its possessor good, and what he does 
good. When it is a guestion of the infused supernatural virtues, it is necessary to recall the 
definition given by St. Augustine, who described virtue as "a good guality of mind by which one 
lives righteously, of which no one can make bad use, which God works in us without us." 

The pagan philosophers understood and taught that the integration and fulfillment of the human 
person are impossible without the virtues, without subordinating man's lower powers and 
faculties to the control of reason. But because we know through revelation by God that we are 
made in the image of God and called to intimate union with the Trinity in glory, we, as people of 
faith, realize that our true vocation is to become mature persons in Christ, for which we need 
Goďs grace and the infused virtues. 

These virtues, working as they do through our natural faculties, are meant to become ever more 
deeply radicated in the human person until they reach that perfection at which the Holý Spirit 

becomes the primary agent of activity through his gifts. After tne sacraments, there is no more 
efficacious means for growth in grace and holiness than the acts of virtue imperated by charity, 
whether they be the works of mercy, of apoštoláte and ministry, or the less visible but egually 
sanctifying acts of humility, meekness, patience, obedience, and penance. 


The concept of merit has its source in the teaching of Christ (cf. Matt. 6:1-4; 20:1-16; 25:14-23), 
and St. Paul speaks of merit in terms of wages received for one's toil (1 Cor. 3:8) and as a 
recompense (1 Cor. 3:14). Itis necessary, of course, to avoid any juridical or mathematical 
interpretation of merit, as if the spirituál goods merited from God were due in strict justice. 
Scripture also states that of ourselves we can do nothing; God alone gives the increase. 
Nevertheless, we use the term merit, but always with the understanding that since grace and 
charity are the basis of merit, in rewarding us for our works of grace God is rewarding his own 
gifts to us. We need grace to merit grace, but grace comes only from God. 

Our actions, therefore, are meritorious in the measure that they proceed from grace and are 
motivated by charity. It does not matter so much for merit what kind of good act is performed as 
the love with which we perform the act. A very insignificant action doně out of intense love will 
be much more meritorious than a great deed performed with less charity or less perfect 
motivation. As St. Teresa says: "The Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything 
we do as at the love with which we do it." (32) 

Since merit is determined by the actuation of the virtue of charity, an actual increase of grace 
reguires a more intense act of charity than the hábit of charity possessed here and now. Thus, St. 
Thomas states: "Charity does not actually increase by any act of charity whatever. But any act of 
charity disposes for an increase of charity, so far as by an act of charity a man becomes more 
prompt to continue working through charity, and as this disposition increases, the man breaks 
forth in a more feivent act of charity through which he strives to grow in charity, and then 
charity is actually increased."(33) Of course, any act of charity presupposes an actual grace 
reducing the hábit from potentiality to action, and this applies also to the more intense act of 
charity. Hence the importance of striving to dispose oneself for ever more intense acts of charity, 
without which there is always the danger of falling into spirituál lukewarmness and purely 
routine works of virtue that make the soul susceptible to all kinds of temptation. We should notě, 
however, that the sacraments, which work ex opere operato, always produce grace so long as the 
soul receives them with the proper dispositions. 

According to the theological axiom that the principle of merit does not fall under merit -- or 
stated positively, we need grace to merit grace -- no person can merit the first grace for himself, 
and therefore a person in mortal sin can do nothing for himself by way of merit. However, since 
grace does serve as the basis for merit, those souls who are in the statě of grace may, by their 
prayers and good works, and by reason of a certain fittingness because they are friends of God, 
merit the first grace for a person in sin. Indeed, prayer for the conversion of sinners is one of the 
most powerful means of obtaining whatever is necessary for the salvation of souls. 

Prayer of Petition 

St. Thomas assigns four distinct values to prayer: satisfactory, meritorious, a certain spirituál 

delight, and impetratory. 

The satisfactory value of prayer is evident. It is clear not only from the fact that it always 
presupposes an act of humility and subjection to God, whom we háve offended by our sins, but 
also because prayer springs from charity, the source of all satisfaction for sin. Finally, a prayer 
well made is a difficult task for imperfect souls, by reason of the attention and firmness of will 
that it requires; hence it is also satisfactory as regards the difficulty involved. 

Like any other act of supematural virtue, prayer receives its meritorious value from charity, from 
which it springs by means of the virtue of religion, of which it is a proper act. As a meritorious 
act, prayer is subjected to the conditions for any other virtuous act and is ruled by the samé laws. 
In this sense prayer can merit de condigno whatever can be merited in this way so long as the 
proper conditions are fulfilled. 

The thind effect of prayer is a certain spirituál delight of the soul. But in order that prayer 
actually produce spirituál delight, attention is absolutely necessary; spirituál delight is 
incompatible with distractions, voluntary orinvoluntary. For that reason, contemplative prayer, 
in which the attention of the soul is the greatest possible by reason of the concentration of all 
one's psychological energies on the object contemplated, carries with it the greatest delight. 
Prayer nourishes our intellect, arouses our sensibility in a holý manner, and stimulates and 
strengthens our will. It is truly a refectio mentis, which by its very nature is meant to fill the soul 
with sweetness. 

But it is the impetratory value of prayer that interests us most as an element of increase and 
development of the Christian life independent of merit. Let us first see the principál differences 
between the meritorious and impetratory aspects of prayer. As a meritorious act, prayer implies a 
relation to justice in regard to a rewand; its impetratory value implies a relation simply to the 
mercy of God. As meritorious, it has an intrinsic efficacy for obtaining a reward; as impetratory, 
its efficacy rests solely on the pro mise of God. The meritorious efficacy is based above all on 
charity; the impetratory value is based primaňly on faith. The object of merit and of impetration 
is not always the samé, although sometimes these two aspects may coincide. Most important for 
our purposes, however, is the fact that prayer of petition, when it fills the requirements, infallibly 
obtains what is asked in virtue of the promises of God. The truth is definitely de fide, based as it 
is on several scriptural texts: 

Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. 
For the one who asks, receives. The one who seeks, finds. The one who knocks enters 
(Matt. 7:7-8). Y ou will receive all that you pray for, provided you háve faith (Matt. 

And whatever you ask in my name I will do, so as to glorify the Father in the Son. 
Anything you ask in my name, I will do (John 14:13-14). 

If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will -- it will be 
doně foryou (John 15:7). 

I give you my assurance, whatever you ask the Father, he will give you in my name. Until 
now you háve not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you shall receive, that your 
joy may be full (John 16:23-24). 

We háve this confidence in God: that he hears us whenever we ask for anything 
according to his will. And since we know that he hears us whenever we ask, we know 
that what we háve asked him for is ours (1 John 5:14-15). 

It is impossible to speak more clearly or with more insistence. The divine promise regarding an 
answer to prayer stands out in full certainty in the sources of revelation. But what conditions are 
reguired that prayer infallibly obtain and fulfill the divine promises? St. Thomas assigns four of 
them, to which all the others that are listed by other authors can be reduced: that one should pray 
for oneself; that one should pray for that which is necessary for salvation; that one should pray 
piously; and that one should pray with perseverance. (34) 

The reason that one must pray for oneself is that the granting of a divine grace always demands a 
subject who is pro perly disposed, and it may be that one's neighbor is not disposed to receive that 
which is asked in prayer. On the other nand, those who pray for themselves, if they do it fittingly, 
are by that very fact disposed to, be heard. If -it were otherwise, their prayers would not be true 
prayers at all. 

This is not to say, however, that prayer for others is always inefficacious. On the contrary, it 
often obtains what is asked; but we cannot háve infallible certainty of an answer because we 
cannot be certain of the dispositions of the person for whom we pray. We may ask God that he 
dispose our neighbor for a certain effect through his infinite mercy, but God has not promised 
this to anyone, and therefore we cannot obtain it infallibly. 

One must pray for those things necessary for salvation. This means anything at all that in any 
way is necessary oruseful for salvation. As such it falls underthe infallible impetration of 
prayer. Hence we can impetrate by prayer the growth or increase of the infused virtues and of the 
gifts of the Holý Spirit, and even those things that cannot in any way be merited. It is evident 
from this that the area of impetration is much wider than that of merit. Thus by impetration one 
can petition actual efficacious grace in order not to fall into a grave sin or to perform some 
salutary act or even the gift of finál perseverance that is infallibly connected with etemal 
salvation. The Church, underthe guidance of the Holý Spirit, freguently begs in the liturgy for 
these graces no one can merit in the strict sense of the word. 

One must pray piously, and by this word St. Thomas refers to all the conditions reguired on the 
part of the individual who prays - humility, confidence, attention, and petition in the name of 
Christ. Some authors include all these subjective conditions underthe heading of the statě of 
grace, without which, they say, no one can pray piously. St. Thomas raises this very objection, 
and this is his solution: 

The sinner cannot pray piously in the sense that his prayer is informed by the 
supematural hábit of the virtue of piety, which he lacks, but he can pray piously in the 
sense that he can ask for something that pertains to piety, just as he who does not háve 
the hábit of justice may nevertheless desire something that is just. And although the 
prayer of the sinner is not meritorious, it can nevertheless háve an impetratory value, 
because merit is based on justice, while impetration is based on pure gratuity or 
liberality. (35) 

Conseguently, although the statě of grace is undoubtedly most fitting for the efficacy of prayer, it 

is not absolutely necessary. It is one ťhing to demand a wage that is due in justice, but it is 
something guite distinct to beg for alms. In the second čase, no other titles are necessary but 
one's need. What is always necessary, however, is the previous impulse of an actual grace, which 
can be given and actually is given to sinners. 

The prayer must be made with perseverance. The Lord repeated time and again the necessity of 
perseverance in prayer until we obtain what we ask. Recall the parable of the friend who came to 
beg for bread (Luke 11:5-13), of the evil judge and the importunate widow (Luke 18:1-5), the 
moving episode of the woman of Cana who insisted in špite of an apparent rebuff (Matt. 
15:21-28), and the sublime example of Christ himself, who freguently spent the whole night in 
prayer and in Gethsemane prayed in great anguish to his heavenly Father (Luke 6:12; 22:44). . 

Such are the conditions for the infallible efficacy of prayer. In practice, however, we obtain 
many things from God without fulfilling all these conditions because of the superabundance of 
the divine mercy. But if we do fulfill all the conditions, we shall infallibly obtain, by reason of 
the divine promise, even those graces we could not merit in an absolute sense. 

Utility and Necessity of Prayer 

Following the teaching of St. Thomas, the first guestion to be asked concerning prayer of petition 
concerns its fittingness and utility. God knows our needs better than we do; therefore, it seems 
unnecessary to give voice to our petitions. Moreover, God knows from the beginning what he 
will grant us and what he will not grant us; therefore, since we cannot change the immutable will 
of God, it is useless to pray. 

In answer to these difficulties, St. Thomas replies, first, that we need to pray to G od, not to make 
known to him our needs, but that we may be reminded of the necessity of having recourse to 
God; secondly, that our motive in praying is not to change the divine will in our regard but, by 
our prayers, to obtain what God has decreed.{36) Scripture explicitly commands us to pray 
always (Luke 18:1); the theological reason is that divine providence decrees what effects are to 
také pláce, by what causes, and in what order. Human actions, and among them prayer, are 
causes of certain effects under Goďs dispensation, and hence when we achieve something by our 
prayers, we are receiving what God has decreed we shall receive through our prayers. 

The prayer of petition is not, therefore, an extrinsic cause that moves or determines the will of 
God, for this is impossible. It is a cause only in the sense that God has related some things to 
others in such a way that, if certain causes are placed, certain effects will, follow. Moreover, 
prayer is a conditional cause, as if God were to decree: "If you ask for such and such a benefit, it 
will be granted you; but if you do not ask, you will not receive it." It follows from this that it is 
an error to believe that if we persevere in prayer, come what may, we shall always obtain that 
which we seek. Some things will be granted to us whether we pray for them or not, because God 
has decreed that they shall be granted to us absolutely; some things will nevěr be granted to us, 
no matter how eamestly and how long we pray for them; still others will be granted to us only if 
we pray, because God has decreed that they will be given only on the condition that we ask for 

The next guestion concems the things for which we should pray. Although the very notion of 
petition signifies that we desire something for ourselves, our petitions to God should always be 

made with the condition that what we ask is according to his will. And there are certain things 
ťhat by their very nature are in accordance with, or contrary to, the divine will. Thus we can, in 
an absolute sense, petition God for any of those things that pertain to Goďs glory, etemal 
salvation, and growth in grace and virtue, for then we conform our wills to Goďs will. But it 
would nevěr be lawful to ask God for anything that would work to our spirituál detriment, for 
this would be asking God to go against his own divine will. 

But what of tempo ral goods? Is it commendable and lawful to ask God for such things as the 
necessities of life, good health, a long life? The principle ušed by St. Augustine was that it is 
lawful to pray for anything that it is lawful to desire. 

Our need for temporal goods is based on the natural law of selfpreservation, our rights and duties 
as members of society, and the reguirements of our particular profession, occupation, or 
vocation. A 11 things being egual, it matters not whether we possess many worldly goods or only 
the minimum; what matters is the manner in which we use them and the degree of our 
attachmentto them. 

Therefore, so long as we use temporal goods virtuously and subordinate them to our trne ultimate 
end, it is lawful to possess them and to petition for them from God. But since some persons are 
excessively attached to temporal goods or are led into occasions of sin through the possession of 
them, one can readily surmise why prayers for such things often go unanswered. We do not 
know what things are for our good, and for that reason we should always pray for temporal 
goods under the condition that such things be in accordance with G oďs will and for our own 
spirituál benefit. 

If ušed in the proper way, the prayer of petition is of great spirituál benefit. It is in itself an 
excellent act of the virtue of religion, it exercises us in the virtue of humility, and it increases our 
confidence in God. When we pray, we enter into the workings of divine providence by placing 
the secondary conditional cause from which certain effects will follow, according to the divine 
decrees. Lastly, when we are on our knees before God, we are thereby raised to a greater dignity, 
for the proper use of prayer will conform our will to Goďs. 

But prayer is not only fitting and useful; it is also absolutely necessary in the economy of divine 
providence, both by necessity of precept and by necessity of means ex institutione divina. As to 
the first, Scripture repeatedly commands that we pray: "Watch and pray" (Matt. 26:41); "They 
ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1); "Ask, and it will be given you" (Matt. 7:7); 
"Pray constantly" (1 Thess. 5:17); "Continue steadfastly in prayer" (Col. 4:2). Even natural 
precept obliges us to pray because we are so weak and lack many things only God can supply. 
The ecclesiastical law prescribes certain prayers on certain occasions, such as during the 
administration of the sacraments, during times of great peril, the canonical recitation of the 
Office. If we fulfill our religious obligations by attendance at Mass on days of obligation and say 
some prayers daily, we can be at ease in our conscience as regards the obligation to pray. 

As regards the necessity of means, it is common and certain theological doctrine that prayer is 
necessary by necessity of means for the salvation of adults. There are many testimonies from the 
Fathers to substantiate this doctrine, but perhaps the most conclusive is that of St. Augustine, 
which was guoted by the Council of Trent: "For God does not command impossibilities, but by 
commanding admonishes you both to do what you can do and to pray for what you cannot do, 

and ,assists you that you may be able."{37) God will not refuse grace to him who prays for it 
with the proper dispositions, for it is the divine will that all men be saved. For this reason 
spirituál writers háve listed the faithful practice of prayer as a sign of predestination and the lack 
of prayer as a sign of reprobation. 

Since prayer is an act of the virtue of religion, which has the worship of God as its proper object, 
it would seem unnecessary to ask whether it is lawful to pray to anyone but God. But the practice 
of the Church and the objections of certain religious groups make it necessary to clarify the 
practice of praying to the saints. St. Thomas gives the answer as clearly and succinctly as one 
could wish: 

Prayer is offered to a person in two ways: first, to be fulfilled by him, and secondly, to be 
obtained through him. In the first way we offer prayer to God alone, since all our prayers 
ought to be directed to the acguisition of grace and glory, which God alone gives, 
according to Psalm 83:12: Grace and glory he [the Lord] bestows." But in the second way 
we pray to the saints, whether angels or men, not that God may know our petitions 
through them, but that our prayers may be effective through their prayers and merits.(38) 

The Council of Trent solemnly defended the practice of praying to the saints to 
intercede for us, and of venerating their relics and imaqes. (39) The principál 
theological reasons for the practice are the goodness of God, who deigns to 
associate the saints in the obtaining and distribution of graces; the doctrine of the 
communion of saints; and the perfect charity and abundant merits of the blessed, 
who know our needs and desire to assist us to attain glory. 

What is to be said of the practice of praying to the souls in purgatory and the 
possibility of their interceding forus? The Church has made no definite statement 
on this matter, and therefore it is an open question among theologians. Many 
theologians, however, defend the practice of praying to the souls in purgatory. 
Their primary argument is based on the doctrine of the communion of saints, for it 
is unlikely that those who are in purgatory and assured of ultimate glory would be 
entirely ignorant of the needs of souls on earth, especially of those they háve 
loved in this life. Also, although we cannot know for certain the amount of 
suffrage and reliéf that is granted the souls in purgatory by our prayers and good 
works, it is probable that the souls realize that their reliéf is due to someone here 
on earth, and they would logically be moved to gratitude toward their benefactors. 

D i fficulties in Prayer 

There are two main sources of difficulty in the practice, of prayer: distractions 
and dryness. These difficulties are not restricted to the prayer of petition nor to 
any particular type of prayer. Consequently, what is said here should be applied to 
all of the grades of prayer we shall discuss later. 

Since prayer is an operation of the practical intellect under the impetus of the will, 
by its very nature it requires attention, as does any other intellectual operation. 
But there are various degrees of attention, and not every type of prayer requires 
the samé degree of attention. Indeed, in the higher grades of prayer it would seem 

that the individual pays no attention at all to the act of prayer as such. With 
beginners in the practice of prayer, on the other nand, there may be a great deal of 
attention, but the prayer is as yet very imperfect. 

In order to understand this apparent paradox it is necessary to consider the kinds 
of attention that can be ušed in prayer and the psychology of hábit formation. 
Since prayer is conversation with God, it involves the use of words, whether one 
reads or speaks or merely thinks them. In the act of praying, one may focus 
attention on any one of three elements: the words themselves (e.g., to pronounce 
them correctly or use them rightly), the meaning of the words and content of the 
prayer as a whole, or the one to whom the prayer is addressed and the purpose of 
the prayer. In vocal prayer it is essential that one be attentive to the words spoken; 
in meditation one must give attention to the meaning of the words; but in any kind 
of prayer the most important element is to fix the mind on G od by the third kind 
of attention. 

Like any other human activity, the practice of prayer can become habitual, and 
therefore it falls under the laws of hábit formation. Habits are acguired by the 
repetition of acts, and as a hábit becomes more deeply rooted and perfected, the 
acts that flow from it are more facile, more pleasant, and reguire less actual 
attention. For that reason habits are said to be "second nature." 

In the practice of prayer beginners will háve to give attention to all the details and 
mechanics of prayer so that they will learn to do things correctly from the start. 
Thus the beginners in meditation will follow some method. But as they become 
more facile in the practice of prayer, the focal point of attention changes from 
words and methods and other mechanical details to the content of the prayer and 
the purpose of the prayer. Attention is still present -- as indeed it must be for all 
prayer -- but it is a different and more excellent type of attention. At this stage one 
recites the rosary with practically no awareness of the words or their meaning but 
with attention to a given mystery, or one's attention in mental prayer has shifted 
from methods and devices to the content and purpose of the meditation. At this 
point the soul is liberated, so to speak, so that it can soar to the higher grades of 
prayer in which the mind is fixed on God so strongly that it forgets all other 

But however much we endeavor to keep our attention fixed on one thing, we 
cannot do so for an extended period of time. Even in the act of concentration the 
human mind wavers, if only for a second. Fixed attention becomes all the more 
difficult as the object of concentration is loftier, or the time spent in concentration 
is longer. There is, of course, a great discrepancy in the powers of concentration 
and attention of various individuals, due to temperament and training, but the 
human mind is also limited by the inherent weaknesses of man's psychosomatic 

Our concem with distractions in prayer is not from the viewpoint of their effect 
on the merit of prayer, but their effect on the practice of prayer as such. Whether 
voluntary or involuntary, a distraction consists in any alien thought or imagination 

that prevents the mind from attending to ťhat which it is doing. If the distraction 
affects the external senses or intemal senses only, the mind can still give attention 
to what it is doing, but with difficulty. If the distraction consists in an alien 
thought in the mind itself, attention is completely destroyed or, rather, it is shifted 
to another object. Divided attention or the complete lack of attention in the 
performance of actions that involve manuál operations or bodily movements (e.g., 
walking, dancing, eating) does not necessarily affect the perfection of the 
operation, but when it is a guestion of the operation of the higher faculties, some 
degree of attention is absolutely necessary. Distractions in prayer, therefore, will 
always render it less perfect or will nullify it completely. 

We háve stated that distractions in prayer may be voluntary or involuntary. In 
either čase they are obstacles to prayer, and they must be reduced and ultimately 
eliminated if one is to make progress in this spirituál exercise. To achieve this it is 
necessary to examine the causes from which distractions spring: 

1. Constitutional factors: nervous or sanguine temperament; vivid and 
unstable imagination; weak powers of concentration; vehement and 
uncontrolled passions; sensate nature. 

2. Physical or mental illness: brain disorders; glandular malfunction; 
physical exhaustion; mental fatigue; neurotic traits; psychotic 

3. Character defects: any acguired habits inimical to the practice of prayer 
(lack of recollection; dissipation; lukewarmness; vain curiosity; 
slothfulness; lust; gluttony; pride). 

4. Improper spirituál direction: if the spirituál director imposes his own 
preconceived ideas upon the individual without understanding the needs of 
the soul, the capacity of the soul, and the movements of grace in the soul 
(e.g., to force a soul to practice meditation when God moves the soul to a 
higher degree of prayer). 

5. The devih with Goďs permission the devil sometimes acts directly on 
the extemal and internal senses, or indirectly distracts from prayer by 
working through any of the other causes enumerated. 

6. Unsuitable circumstances: uncomfortable posture; improper time; 
external noises; lack of proximate preparation; excessive heat or cold. 

There is no infallible method for ridding oneself of all distractions in prayer 
because, as we háve seen, it is the nature of the human mind to waver in its 
attention. Nevertheless, this does not excuse us from doing the best we can to pray 
with full attention and to forestall possible distractions to the best of our ability. 
To this end, one should approach prayer with a recollected spirit, putting aside all 
concems and interests and entering into prayer with the simple and pure motive of 

In particular, one should prevent external distractions by selecting the proper time 
and pláce and a reasonably comfortable posture for prayer. When this is not 
possible, one should make every effort to withdraw oneself mentally from one's 
surroundings and to enter into the cell of the heart to speak with God. Even more 
important, one should rid oneself of internal sources of distraction by putting 
aside all thoughts of one's duties, anxieties, interests, except so far as they may be 
the subject matter of one's prayer. It is necessary to give full attention to the duty 
of the moment which in this instance is the practice of prayer. As a remote 
preparation for prayer the following points are of speciál importance: a spirit of 
silence and recollection, avoidance of vain curiosity, custody of the senses, 
spirituál reading practiced faithfully, and the practice of mortification. 

Aridity or dryness in the practice of prayer consists in a certain inability to 
produce the necessary intellectual and affective acts, or in an actual distaste for 
prayer. It is usually encountered in the practice of mental prayer, and it reaches its 
most painful statě in the higher stages of mystical prayer when it seems that God 
has abandoned the soul completely. 

Dryness in prayer may be caused by the individual, by God, or by the devil, but 
those who actually experience dryness should first suspect that they themselves 
are the cause. Among the internal and involuntary causes of dryness are bad 
health, bodily fatigue, excessive activity orabsorbing duties, vehementand 
prolonged temptations that exhaust one's powers, improper training in the practice 
of prayer, methods of prayer unsuited to the individual. Sometimes, however, 
dryness is the natural result of one's own imperfections: lukewarmness in the 
service of God, infidelity to grace, habitual venial sin, habits of sensuality, vain 
curiosity, instability and superficiality, excessive activism. 

At other times dryness may be sent by God as a purification or a test. After a soul 
has become somewhat adept in the practice of prayer, God usually deliberately 
withdraws all sensible consolation so that the soul will be purified of any 
excessive attachment to such consolation, will be humbled at seeing how little it 
can do without Goďs help, and will thus be disposed for the next grade of prayer. 
Throughout one's advancement in the life of prayer, this altemation between 
dryness and consolation is usually perceptible at regular intervals, and especially 
when God is preparing the soul for some new advance or some greater grace. If 
the dryness is prolonged over a long period, in špite of the soul's fidelity to grace 
and earnest efforts, one may suspect that the soul is entering upon the night of the 
senses or some other passive purification. 

If, however, there is every indication that the dryness is caused by the devil, the 
soul should strive to be faithful in the practice of prayer, even if this means that it 
must return from a higher grade of prayer to the simple recitation of vocal 
prayers. The important thing is for the soul to do the best it can and under no 
pretext give up the practice of prayer, for that is precisely the goal the devil seeks 
to achieve. 

But since one should always suspect that dryness in prayer is due to one's own 

weakness and imperfection, the best remedy is to correct any defects in the 
practice of prayer, especially lukewarainess and negligence in the service of Cod. 
If the causes of the dryness are beyond one's control, the best thing to do is to 
resign oneself to the trial for as long a time as God wills, to realize that sensible 
devotion and consolation are not essential to the trne love of God, to humble 
oneself with a sense of one's unworthiness, and to persevere in prayer at any cost. 
The periods of involuntary dryness can be periods of great merit and purification, 
especially if one unites oneself with the suffering Christ in the Garden of 

Other pitfalls to be avoided in the practice are the following: 

1. Purely mechanical recitation of vocal prayers and lifeless routine in the 
practice of mental prayer. 

2. Excessive personál effort, as if one were able to do all by sheer force; or 
undue passivity and inertia, as if one should leave all to God alone. 

3. Discouragement at not perceiving the consolations one expected; or 
rash optimism that one is further advanced in prayer than one really is. 

4. Attachment to sensible consolation, which causes in the soul a certain 
spirituál gluttony that impels one to seek the consolations of God rather 
than the God of consolations. 

5. Persistence in the use of a particular method, as if that were the only 
possible method, or the premature abandonment of a method. 


Summa theologiae, 11-11, g. 24, a. 9. 

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n. 59. 

Cf. Denz.-Schón., Enchiridion Symbolorum (Freiburg: Herder, 1963), n. 1608. 

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 1. 

Ibid., n. 6. 

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n. 9. 

Cf. Summa theologiae, III, g. 69, a. 8. 

Ibid., g. 65, a. 1. 

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 39. 

Apostolic Constitution Divinae Consortium Naturae, AAS, LXIII (1971), pp. 


Denz.-Schón. 1609, 1628. 

Decreeon the Apoštoláte o fthe Lay People, n. 2. 

Ibid., nn. 6-7. 

Cf. Decree on the Ministry and Life ofPriests, n. 2. 

Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 10. 

Decree on the Apoštoláte of Lay People, n. 2. 

Denz.-Schón. 1739-1743, and Pope Pius XII, MediatorDei. 

Eucharisticum Mystérium, AAS LIX (1967), pp. 539-73. 

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, nn. 1-11, passim. 

Eucharisticum Mystérium (Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistie 
Mystery), section H. In the Instruction Immensae Caritatis, issued on 
January 25, 1973, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship stated that 
the occasions on which the faithful are permitted to receive Communion 
more than once in the samé day are restricted and clearly stated. The basic 
norm that Communion may be received only once a day remains in force, 
and it is not permitted to set it aside merely from motives of devotion. 

In the baptism of infants the sponsors supply the intention by speaking for the 
infant; in Viaticum or the anointing of an unconscious person a habitual 
intention suffices. 

Cf. Denz.-Schón. 1648-50. 

Council of Trent, Session 14, Chap. 3. The Council deseribed contrition as 
sorrow for sin, accompanied by the resolve to sin no more (Chap. 4). Cf. 
Denz.-Schón. 1703. 

Summa theologiae, III, g. 85, a. 3. 

St. Thomas says: "It may happen that the strength of the penitenťs act at times 
corresponds to a greater degree of, grace than that from which he fell by 
sin; at times to an egual degree; at times to a lower degree. Conseguently 
the penitent sometimes rises in a higher degree than he previously 
possessed; sometimes in egual degree; sometimes in lesser degree. The 
samé reasoning applies to the [infused] virtues, since they follow upon 
grace" {Summa, III, g. 89, a. 2). 

Cf. Denz.-Schón. 1679-83. 

Anointing ofthe Sick, November 30, 1972. The passage from Mark, 

mentioned in the quotation from the Council of Trent reads: "They 
expelled many demons, anointed the sick with oil, and worked many 
cures" (Denz.-Schón. 1695). 

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n. 73. 

Pastorál Constitution on the Church in the Modem World, nn. 47-49. 

Decree on the Ministry and Life ofPriests, n. 12. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 182, a. 2. 

The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1946), 
Seventh Mansions, Chap. 4. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 24, a. 6. 

Ibid., q. 83, a. 15, ad 2. 

Ibid., a. 16, ad 2. 

Ibid., a. 2. 

Cf. St. Auqustine, De nátura etgratia, Chap. 43, n. 50; Denz.-Schón. 1536. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 83, a. 4. 

Denz.-Schón. 1744, 1755, 1821. 

The Theological Virtues 

We háve already discussed the theology of the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holý Spirit in 
Chapter 4. Now it is necessary to treat of them in particular, as meritorious good works by which 
one grows in holiness. The detailed study of each of the virtues and gifts belongs to systematic 
moral theology, and therefore we shall not repeat what is treated in that section of theology. 
Rather, we shall focus our attention on the principál virtues that are necessary for the perfection 
of the Christian life. 

The virtues contribute to Christian perfection and holiness in a variety of ways. First of all, when 
performed under the impetus of grace and motivated by charity, the acts of the virtues are 
meritorious of an increase of grace. Secondly, they pertain to the essence of Christian perfection, 
because charity is the principál virtue of Christian holiness while the other virtues relate to 
Christian perfection as imperated by charity. Thirdly, the virtues constitute a kind of goal in the 
sense that through the perfection of the virtues the individual is configured to Christ and thus 
givesglory to God. 

Our treatment of the virtues and the gifts will concentrate especially on the virtues as constitutive 
elements of Christian holiness. It should be noted, however, that while all the virtues contribute 
to Christian perfection, the pattern of particular virtues that are operative in the life of the 
individual will be determined by one's vocation or statě of life, as well as by one's particular gifts 

or charisms. Thus, in the saints we find that each one practiced the virtues to a heroic degree and 
was actuated by the gifts of the Holý Spirit but one saint differs from another in the virtues that 
formed the pattem of holiness. 

The theological virtues are so called because they enable the individual to relate directly to God, 
whereas the moral virtues háve as their objects the proper use and control of our faculties in 
relation to those things that can serve as a means to personál holiness and etemal life. Thus, by 
faith we believe in God and accept all that he has revealed; by hope we trust God to be faithful to 
his promises if we correspond to his grace; by charity we love God as our perfect good and 
ultimate end. 

The three theological virtues are the Christian virtues par excellence, and yet they are not 
understood or appreciated by those who live according to purely human standards, though these 
samé persons may admire the moral virtues of justice, prudence, fortitude, and temperance. The 
reason is that the theological virtues draw us away from the natural order to the divine and the 
supernatural. Faith looks beyond the horizons of human knowledge and clings to the truths and 
mysteries revealed by God in Jesus Christ; hope causes us to regard the things of this world of 
little worth when compared to the life of glory to which we are called; charity impels us to love 
God above all else and to love all else in God, rejecting anything that is an obstacle to that love. 

However, true Christians do not overreact against the world and brand all creation as evil, nor do 
they disdain anything that does not bear the label of Christian. At the samé time, they háve the 
courage to stand against the purely secular when it infringes on the rights of God and of true 
religion. The theological virtues, therefore, enable Christians to orientate their whole life and all 
their actions to God, as St. Paul points out: 

We constantly are mindful before our God and Father of the way you are proving your 
faith, and laboring in love, and showing constancy of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ .... 
We who live by day must be alert, putting on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope 
of salvation as a helmet (1 Thess. 1:3-5; 5:8). 


If, as we háve seen in the discussion on grace, the Christian life can be understood only in 
relation to the supernatural end to which it is directed and in view of which it must be evaluated, 
the first pláce "in the order of generation" must be given to the virtue of faith. The Church has 
defined the virtue of faith as follows: 

It is a supernatural virtue by which, thanks to the movement and help of Goďs grace, we 
believe what God reveals to be true, not because its intrinsic truth is obvious under 
scrutiny according to the natural light of reason, but on the authority of God himself 

In virtue of the divine and Catholic faith, all those things are to be believed which are 
contained in the word of God-either the written or the traditional word-and are proposed 
for belief by the Church.(l) 

The virtue of faith is an infused gift of God, but man "cannot give his adherence to God when he 
reveals himself unless, drawn by the Father, he submits to God with a faith that is reasonable and 
free."[2) The act of faith is an act of belief in truths revealed by God, and therefore it requires 
assent ofthe intellect. But the act of belief does not follow upon any discursus of the intellect or 
any evidence that necessitates belief; it rests on the authority of God revealing, and therefore it 
requires the command ofthe will preceding the faith-act. But proceeding as they do from a 
supematural virtue, both the command of the will and the assent of the intellect in faith are 
supernatural acts, and hence the third element in the act of faith is the movement ofdivine grace, 
for actual grace is the intrinsic principle of all supernatural acts. As St. Paul says: "I repeat, it is 
owing to his favor that salvation is yours through faith. This is not your own doing, it is Goďs 
gift" (Eph. 2:8). 

The perfect operation of the virtue of faith requires the statě of sanctifying grace and the 
actuation of charity. Thus, the Council of Trent stated that a faith not united to hope and charity 
does not unitě us perfectly to Christ nor make us living members of his Mystical Body .(3) 
However, the samé Council declared that persons in mortal sin can still possess an unformed 
faith (not animated by charity). They still believe the truths of faith on the authority of God 
revealing, but lacking sanctifying grace, their acts are not meritorious.{4) Only a serious sin 
directed against faith will destroy the virtue of faith. 

The Council of Trent states that faith is the beginning, the foundation, and the root of 
justification, and without faith it is impossible to please God and to be numbered among his 
children.(5) It is the beginning because it establishes the first contact between ourselves and God, 
the Author of the supernatural order. The first thing is to believe in God. It is the foundation, 
inasmuch as all the othervirtues, including charity, presuppose faith, and are established upon it 
as an edifice on its foundation. Without faith it is impossible to hope or to love. It is the root, 
because in it, when vivified by charity, all the othervirtues live. When animated by charity, faith 
produces, among other things, two great effects in the soul: the filial fear of God that helps the 
soul keep itself from sin, and the purification of the heart that raises it to the heights and cleanses 
it of its affection for earthly things. 

Both objectively and subjectively faith can grow and develop in our souls until it reaches an 
extraordinary degree, but it is necessary to understand this doctrine correctly. No one has 
explained it better than St. Thomas, and we shall summarize his teaching. 

A hábit or virtue can be considered in two ways: by reason of the object and by reason of its 
participation in the subject (objective faith and subjective faith). Now the object of faith 
(objective faith) can be considered in two ways: according to its formal motive (the authority of 
God revealing) or according to the things pro posed for belief (the truths of faith). The formal 
motive of faith (the authority of God) is one and, from this point of view, faith is not diversified 
in believers, but it is the samé in all (one either accepts the authority of God, or one does not). 
But the truths pro posed for our belief are many, and they can be known more or less explicitly 
(the theologian knows many more and knows them more clearly than the simple believer). 
Accordingly, one person can believe explicitly more truths than another person, and thus háve a 
greater faith according to the greater explication of that faith. 

But if faith is considered according to its participation in the subject (subjective faith), it can also 
háve two modes, because active faith proceeds from the intellect (the intellect assents to revealed 

truths) and from ťhe will (which, moved by God and our free choice, imposes this assent on tne 
intellect). In this sense also faith can be greater in one than in another, by reason of the greater 
promptness with which the will commands the intellect to its assent.(6) 

There is nothing to add substantially to the foregoing doctrine. We shall now investigate the 
ways in which souls can intensify their faith in the various stages of the Christian life. 

The principál concem of beginners is to nourish and foment their faith so that it will not be lost 
or corrupted. In order to do this, certain things are reguired: 

1. Realizing that faith is a gift from God, as St. Paul teaches (Eph. 2:8), they will ask God 
for the grace to strengthen their faith. 

2. They will reject energetically, with the help of divine grace, anything that could be a 
danger to their faith: doubts and temptations against the faith; dangerous literatuře that 
promotes worldly or antiChristian values; intellectual pride, which is the primary obstacle 
to a docile assent to divine revelation. "God 'is stern with the arrogant, but to the humble 
he shows kindness'" (1 Pet. 5:5). 

3. They will attempt to increase their knowledge of the truths of faith by studying 
Catholic doctrine to the best of their ability, thus extending their assent to a greater 
number of specific truths. 

4. They will endeavor to augment subjective faith by making devout acts of faith and by 
obedience to the Magisterium of the Church. 

Advanced souls will cultivate a spirit of faith that will pláce them on a strictly supernatural plane 
from which they can see and judge all things. For this, the following things are necessary: 

1. They should see God through the light of faith, without taking any account of self-love 
or selfish views. God is always the samé, infinitely good and merciful, regardless of the 
consolations or dryness we may experience in prayer, and regardless of adversity or 

2. They should evaluate everything in accordance with the teachings of faith, in špite of 
anything that the world may say or think. For example, they must be convinced that 
poverty, meekness, repentance, mercy, cleanness of heart, and peace (Matt. 5:3-10) are of 
more value toward eternal life than anything the world can offer. They should renounce 
all worldly criteria and any points of view that are purely human. "This is the victory that 
overcomes the world, our faith" (1 John 5:4). 

3. The spirit of faith intensely lived will be a source of consolation in the suffering of this 
life in bodily infirmity, in bitterness and trials of soul, in the ingratitude or hatred of men, 
in the loss of one's relatives and friends. Suffering passes, but the reward for having 
suffered well will nevěr pass. Moreover, a holý life is much more important than a long 
life. The apostles, and after them all the martyrs, illumined by the light of faith, walked 
steadf astry and tranguilly to their death, joyful that they could suffer for the name of 
Jesus (Acts 5:41). 

In perfect souls, illumined by the gifts of understanding and knowledge, faith reaches its 
greatest intensity. It shines forth resplendently as a přelude to the beatific vision and the 
light of glory. 

The G ift of Understanding 

The gift of understanding is a supernatuial hábit infused in the soul with sanctifying grace, by 
which the human intellect, under the illuminating action of the Holý Spirit, is made apt for a 
penetrating intuition of revealed truths, and even for natural truths, so far as they are related to 
the supernatural end. The gift of understanding resides in the speculative intellect, which it 
perfects (the intellect having been informed previously by the virtue of faith), in order to receive 
in a connatural way the motion of the Holý Spirit. 

The essence of the gift of understanding is a penetrating intuition, and this constitutes the 
specific difference between the gift and the virtue of faith. Faith provides a knowledge of 
supernatural truths in an imperfect manner (módo humano), which is properte, and characteristic 
of, the infused virtues; the gift of understanding makes the intellect apt for the profound and 
intuitive penetration (módo divino) of those samé revealed truths. Simply speaking, this is a type 
of infused contemplation, a simple and profound intuition of truth. 

The gift of understanding is distinguished from the other intellectual gifts (wisdom, knowledge, 
and counsel) inasmuch as its proper function is the profound penetration of the truths of faith by 
way of simple apprehension, without making any judgment concerning them. Judgment, so far as 
it relates to divine things, pertains to the gift of wisdom; so far as it relates to created things, to 
the gift of knowledge; and so far as it pertains to the application of these truths to particular 
actions, to the gift of counsel. 

The object of the gift of understanding comprises speculative and practical revealed truths, and 
even natural truths so far as they are related to the supernatural end. It embraces everything that 
pertains to God, Christ, human beings, and all creatures, but primarily to the truths of faith and 
secondarily to all other things as related to the supernatural end. 

The gift of understanding produces admirable effects in the soul, and all of them perfect the 
virtue of faith. St. Thomas Aguinas points out different ways in which the gift of understanding 
enables us to penetrate into the truths of faith.(7) 

1. It discloses the hidden meaning ofSacred Scripture. This is whatthe Lord effected in 
regard to the disciples at Emmaus when he opened their minds so that they could 
understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). In the profound understanding of some scriptural 
passage, many of the saints found the tneme of their whole spirituál life: "The favors of 
the Lord I will sing forever" of St. Teresa (Ps. 89:2); "Let whoever is simple turn in here" 
of St. Thérese of Lisieux (Prov. 9:4); "The praise of glory" of Sister Elizabeth of the 
Trinity (Eph. 1:6). For that reason these mystics find great satisfaction in the inspired 
words of Scripture, and especially in the words of Christ himself. 

2. It reveals the mysterious significance ofsymbols and figures. Thus St. Paul saw Christ 
in the rock that gushed forth with living water to appease the thirst of the Israelites in the 

desert: "And tne rock was Chrisť (1 Cor. 10:4). St. John of tne Cross explains many of 
tne symbols and figures of the O Id Testament that reached their full realization in tne 
New Testament or in the life of grace. 

3. It reveals spirituál realities under sensible appearances. The liturgy of the Church is 
filled with sublime symbolism that for the most part escapes the notice of superfrcial 
souls. But the saints experienced a great veneration and respect for the slightest ceremony 
of the Church. The gift of understanding enabled them to see the sublime realities hidden 
beneath those symbols and sensible signs. 

4. It enables one to contemplate the effects that are contained in causes. This is 
particularly noticeable in contemplatives and in prayerful theologians. After the long 
hours of meditation and study, everything is suddenly illuminated under an impulse of the 
Spirit. A word or a statement is then seen in all its depth and meaning. 

5. It makes us see causes through their effects. In an inverse sense, the gift of 
understanding reveals God and his all-powerful causality in his effects without resorting 
to a lengthy discursive process. In a simple gáze and by a divine intuition the soul 
discovers the invisible hidden beneath the visible. 

Such are the principál effects produced in the soul by the actuation of the gift of understanding. 
Perfected by this gift, the virtue of faith reaches an astounding intensity. St. Thomas stated: "In 
this very life, when the eye of the spirit is purified by the gift of understanding, one can in a 
certain way see God."[8) On reaching these heights, the influence of faith is extended to all the 
movements of the soul, all its acts are illuminated, and it sees all things through the prism of 
faith. These souls seem to be guided entirely by the divine instinct as to their manner of being, 
thinking, speaking, or reacting to the events of their own lives or to the lives of others. 

The actuation of the gifts depends entirely on the Holý Spirit, but the soul can do much to 
dispose itself, with the help of grace, for that divine movement. These are the principál means of 
disposing oneself: 

1. The practice ofa vitaí faith with the help ofordinary grace. The infused virtues are 
perfected by the ever more intense practice of their proper acts. And although it is true 
that unless they go beyond the human mode of operation they can nevěr reach their 
perfection, the Holý Spirit will perfect the virtues with his gifts if the soul does all that it 
can by the exercise of the infused virtues. God gives his graces to those that are best 

2. Perfect purity ofsoul and body. The sixth beatitude, which pertains to the clean of 
heart, corresponds to the gift of understanding. Only through perfect cleanness of soul 
and body is one made capable of seeing God: in this life, by the profound illumination of 
the gift of understanding in the obscurity of faith; in the next life, through the clear vision 
of glory. 

3. Interior recollection. The Holý Spirit is the friend of recollection and solitude. Only 
there does he speak in silence to souls. The soul that is a friend of dissipation and 
worldliness will nevěr perceive the word of God in its interior. It is necessary to empty 
oneself of created things, to retire to the cell of one's own heart in order to live there with 

ťhe divine guest. When the soul has doně all that it can to be recollected and detached 
from the world, the Holý Spirit will do the rest. . 

4. Fidelity to grace. The soul must be always attentive and careful not to děny the Holý 
Spirit any sacrifice that he may ask. Not only must the soul avoid every voluntary 
thought, however small, that would sadden the Holý Spirit- according to the mysterious 
expression of St. Paul: "Do nothing to sadden the Holý Spirit" (Eph. 4:30) - but it must 
positively second all his divine movements until it can say with Christ: "I always do what 
pleases him" (John 8:29). 

5. To invoke the Holý Spirit. We cannot practice any of these methods without the help 
and prevenient grace of the Holý Spirit. For that reason we should invoke him freguently 
and with the greatest possible fervor, remembering the promise of Jesus to send the Holý 
Spirit to us (John 14:16-17). In imitation of the apostles when they retired to the Cenacle 
to await the coming of the Paraclete, we should associate our supplications with those of 
the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Acts 1:14), the most faithful Virgin and the heavenly 
Spouse of the Holý Spirit. The divine Spirit will be communicated to us in the measure of 
our fidelity to grace, and this fidelity must be obtained through Mary, the universal 
Mediatrix of all graces. 


Some authors assign to the gift of knowledge the function of perfecting the virtue of hope, but St. 
Thomas assigns it to the virtue of faith, while to hope he assigns the virtue of fear of the Lord.Q) 
We follow the teaching of the Angelic Doctor on this matter but also admit that this gift can be 
related to prudence, justice, and temperance. 

The gift of knowledge is a supernatural hábit through which the human intellect, under the action 
of the Holý Spirit, judges rightly concerning created things as related to eternal life and Christian 

It is not a guestion of human or philosophical knowledge, which gives certain and evident 
knowledge of things deduced by natural reason from their principles or proximate causes. Nor is 
it a guestion of theological knowledge, which deduces from revealed truths the virtualities 
contained therein by making use of natural reasoning. It is a guestion of a supernatural 
knowledge or "divine instinct" which proceeds from a speciál illumination by the Holý Spirit, 
who enables us to judge rightly the connection between created things and the supernatural 
ultimate end. As a hábit it resides in the intellect, as does the virtue of faith, which it perfects. It 
is primarily speculative and secondarily practical. 

Under the action of this gift the individual does not proceed by reasoning but judges rightly 
concerning all created things by a superior impulse and by a higher light than that of simple 
reason illumined by faith. This distinguishes the gift of knowledge from the gift of 
understanding. The latter, as we háve seen, penetrates revealed truths by a supernatural intuition, 
but without forming any judgments. The gift of knowledge, on the other nand, judges rightly 
concerning created things in relation to the supernatural end, and is thus distinguished from the 
gift of wisdom, whose function it is to judge divine things and not created things. This right 

judging of creatures is the "science of the saints," and it is based on charity, which relates not 
only to God but also to creatures, forming a judgment of them according to their properties, and 
then directing all of them to God. 

The effects of this gift are admirable, and all of them háve a great sanctifying value. The 
following are the principál effects: 

1. It teaches us how tojudge rightly concerning created things in relation to God. This is 
proper to the gift of knowledge. Under its impulse, a double awareness is produced in the 
soul: it realizes the emptiness of created things and sees through them the God who made 

2. It guides us with certitude concerning that which we must believe or not believe. The 
soul instinctively possesses the sense of faith (sensus fidei). Without having studied 
theology or without having had any education, such souls are aware whether or not a 
devotion, a doctrine, a counsel, or any kind of maxim is in accord with faith or is opposed 
to faith. 

3. It enables us to see promptly and with certitude the statě ofour soul. Everything is 
clear to the penetrating introspection of the gift of knowledge. Our interior acts arid the 
secret movements of our heart are seen in their goodness or malice. In this way we 
discoverthe evil orthe good that previously escaped ournotice. Rightly did St. Teresa 
say that "in a pláce where the sun enters, there is no hidden dust." 

4. It inspires us concerning the best method ofconduct with our neighbor as regards 
eternal life. In this respect the gift of knowledge influences the virtue of prudence, whose 
perfection is directly under the gift of counsel. By this gift preachers know what they 
ought to say to their hearers and what they ought to urge upon them. Directors perceive 
the statě of the souls under their guidance, their spirituál needs, and the remedies for their 
faults. Superiors know in what way they ought to govern those under them, and parents, 
how to form their children. Here the gift of knowledge relates also to justice. 

5. It detaches us from the things ofearth. This is a conseguence of that right judgment of 
things that constitutes the proper characteristic of the gift of knowledge. Compared to 
God, all creatures are as if they were not. For that reason it is necessary to rise above 
created things in order to rest in God alone. The gift of knowledge instructs the saints 
concerning the necessity of the detachment we admire, for example, in St. John of the 
Cross. A soul illuminated by the gift of knowledge passes beyond creatures in order not 
to be detained in its journey to God. The whole of creation is not worth a glance from one 
who has experienceď God. 

6. It teaches us how to use created things in a holý way. It is certain that created things 
are nothing when compared with God, and yet they are vestiges of God, and they can lead 
us to him if we use them rightly. There are countless examples of this in the lives of the 
saints. The contemplation of created things raised their souls to God because they could 
see the trace of God in creation. Sometimes the most insignificant detail, which would 
pass unnoticed by an ordinary person, made a strong impression on them and led them to 
God. Here the gift relates to the virtue of temperance. 

7. Itfills us with repentance and sorrow for our past errors. This is an inevitable 
consequence of a right judgment concerning created things. In the light of the gift of 
knowledge, souls discover the emptiness of created things, their short duration, their 
inability to make us truly happy, the harm that attachment to them can cause to the soul. 
Then, recalling the times they were attached to created things, they feel a most profound 
repentance manifested by intense acts of contrition. The pathetic accents of the Miserere 
spontaneously spring to their lips as a psychological necessity to alleviate their sorrow. 

Such are the principál effects of the gift of knowledge. Through it, far from seeing creatures as 
obstacles to union with God, the soul uses them as instruments to be united to God. Perfected by 
the gifts of understanding and knowledge, the virtue of faith reaches its greatest intensity. 

In addition to recollection, fidelity to grace and invocation to the Holý Spirit, which are the 
common means for fomenting the gifts of the Holý Spirit in generál, we can point out some 
speciál means for disposing oneself for the actuations of the gift of knowledge. 

1. Consider the vanity of created things. We can nevěr attain by our own efforts the 
penetrating intuition of the gift of knowledge concerning the vanity of created things. 
And yet we can achieve something by meditating seriously on this point. God does not 
ask of us more than we can do at a given time, and those who do what they can, will not 
be refused the divine assistance for further progress. 

l.Accustom oneself to referall created things to God. Weshould nevěr rest in creatures 
but should pass through them to God. Are not created beauties a pallid reflection of the 
divine beauty? We should endeavor to discover in all things the vestige or trace of God 
and thus prepare the way for the action of the Holý Spirit in us. 

3. Oppose energetically the spirit ofthe world. The world is not concemed with anything 
but enjoying created things, putting all its happiness in them. There is no attitude more 
contrary to the spirit of the gift of knowledge. We should avoid the falše maxims that are 
completely opposed to the spirit of God. We should always be alert lest we are taken by 
surprise by the artful enemy, who is constantly striving to turn our gáze away from the 
supematural world. 

4. See the hand ofGod in the government ofthe world and in all the events ofour life, 
whether prosperous or adverse. It costs a great deal to acquire this point of view, and it 
will nevěr be acquired completely until the gift of wisdom operates in us as well as the 
gift of knowledge. Nevertheless, we must endeavor to do as much as we can in this 
respect. God cares forus with a loving providence. He is our Father, and he knows much 
better than we what things are good for us. He leads us with an infinite love, although 
many times we cannot discover the secret design in that which he disposes or permits to 
happen to us. 

5. Cultivate simplicity ofheart. This will attractthe blessing of God, and he will not 
neglect to give us the gifts we need to attain perfect purity of heart, if we are faithful to 
his grace. There is a close relationship between custody of the heart and the exact 
fulfillment of all our obligations. "I háve more discemment than the elders, because I 
observe your precepts" (Ps. 119:100). 


Hope is the theological virtue infused by God into the will, by which we trust with complete 
certitude in the attainment of etemal life and the means necessary for reaching it, assisted by the 
omnipotent help of God. The primary object of hope is etemal beatitude; the secondary object 
consists in all the means leading to it. The formal motive of hope is the assisting omnipotence of 
God, connoting divine mercy and Goďs fidelity to his promises. 

Hope resides in the will, because its proper object is the good, which is the object of the will, but 
charity and faith are more perfect than hope. Absolutely speaking, both faith and hope can exist 
without charity (unformed faith and hope), but no infused virtue can exist in the soul without 

Hope tends to its object with absolute certitude, a truth that reguires some explaining. The 
Church teaches that without a speciál revelation we cannot be certain we shall attain our etemal 
salvation, (10) although we can and ought to háve absolute certitude that with the assistance of 
the omnipotent help of God, no obstacle to our salvation is insuperable. 

The goods of this world fall under the secondary object of hope, but only to the extent that they 
can be useful to us for salvation. For that reason, St. Thomas says that, apart from the salvation 
of our soul, we ought not to ask God for any good unless it is in some way related to our 
salvation. (ll) 

The act of hope, even of unformed hope, is of itself good and virtuous. This is expressly stated in 
Sacred Scripture (cf. Ps. 119:112; Matt. 6:33; Col. 3:1; Heb. 11:26) and can be demonstrated 
theologically because etemal life is the supematural ultimate end of man. Therefore, to work 
with one's gáze fixed on this end is not only good and virtuous but also necessary. 

By the samé token, in this life there is no statě of perfection that habitually excludes the motives 
of hope. The error of the Jansenists and the Quietists consisted in the affirmation that to work out 
of hope is immoral and imperfect and gives evidence that individuals desire God as a good for 
themselves, thus subordinating God to our own personál happiness. But such is not the čase. We 
desire God for ourselves, not because of ourselves but because of himself. God continues to be 
the end or goal of the act of hope, not ourselves. 

Like any other virtue, hope can increase more and more. Let us consider the principál phases of 
its development in the various stages in the spirituál life. 

Above all, beginners should avoid falling into one of the two extremes contrary to hope: 
presumption and despair. To avoid the first, they should consider that without the grace of God 
we can do absolutely nothing in the supematural order. "Apart from me you can do nothing" 
(John 15:5). Without Goďs help one could not háve a single good thought or even pronounce 
worthily the name of Jesus (1 Cor. 12:3). They should remember that God is infinitely good and 
merciful, but that he is also infinitely just (Gal. 6:7). He is disposed to savé us, but on the 
condition that we cooperate with his grace (1 Cor. 15:10) and that we work out our salvation in 
fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). 

To avoid despair and discouragement, beginners should realize that the mercy of God is untiring 
in pardoning the repentant sinner; and if it is certain that of ourselves we can do nothing, it is 
likewise certain that with Goďs grace we can do all things (Phil. 4:13). It is necessary, then, to 
rise courageously from one's falls and renew the joumey with greater effort and zeal, taking 
occasion from the fault itself to redouble one's vigilance and effort. "All things work together for 
the good of those who love him, who háve been called according to his decree" (Rom. 8:28); and 
St. Augustine adds, "even sins," so far as they are an occasion of making the soul more vigilant 
and cautious. 

Beginners should also endeavorto raise their thoughts to heaven, and this for several reasons: 

1. In order to disdain the things ofearth. No created thing can fill completely the heart of 
man, in whom God has placed an infinite capacity. And even in the event that such things 
could satisfy man completely, this would be a transitory and fleeting happiness, as is life 
itself on this earth. Pleasures, wealth, honors, the applause of others -- all these things 
pass and vanish like smoke. When all is said and doně, "What profit would a man show if 
he were to gain the whole world and destroy himself in the process?" (Matt. 16:26). 

2. To be consoled in the midst of their labors and sufferings. Suffering accompanies us 
inevitably from the cradle to the grave, and no one escapes it. But Christian hope reminds 
us that all the sufferings of this life are as nothing in comparison with the glory to be 
manifested in us (Rom. 8:13). If we bear them in a holý manner, these momentary 
tribulations prepare us for the etemal weight of a sublime and incomparable glory (2 Cor. 
4:17). What a consolation for the soul that suffers tribulation if it is able to contemplate 
heaven through its tears! 

3. To be encouraged to be good. The practice of virtue is arduous indeed. It is necessary 
to be detached from everything, to renounce one's own tastes and caprices, and to turn 
back the continuous attacks from the world, the devil, and the flesh. Especially at the 
beginning of the spirituál life this constant battle is most difficult. But what great 
encouragement the soul can experience in raising its eyes to heaven! It is well worthwhile 
to struggle for a short time during the brief years of this life in order to enjoy etemal 
blessings in heaven. Later, when the soul begins to advance along the path of union with 
God, the motives of disinterested love will prevail over those of the soul's own happiness, 
but these desires for perfect happiness will nevěr be completely abandoned. Even the 
greatest saints experienced a nostalgia for heaven, and this is one of the most powerful 
stimuli for advancing without discouragement along the way of heroism and sanctity. 

The advanced soul will strive to cultivate the virtue of hope by intensifying as much as possible 
its confidence in God and in his divine assistance. To this end, the following practices are 

1. Nevěr to be preoccupied with anxious solicitude for tomorrow. We are submerged in 
the divine and loving providence of God. Nothing necessary will be lacking to us if we 
trust in him and if we hope for all things from him. We háve the promise of Christ 
himself: "Look at the birds in the sky .... Think of the flowers growing in the fields .... 
Will he not much more look after you?" (Matt. 6:26-30). Christ also tells us: "I háve 
come so that they may háve life and háve it to the full" (John 10:10). 

2. To simplify their prayer as much as possible. "In your prayers do not babble as tne 
pagans do .... Y our Father knows what you need before you ask nim" (Matt. 6:7-9). The 
formula of the Our Father, which came from the lips of the divine Master, will be their 
favorite prayer, together with the other prayers from the Gospel that are so brief and filled 
with confidence in the goodness and mercy of God. What simplicity and sublimity in the 
Gospel, but how much complication and confusion in us when we pray! 

3. To advance in detachment from all earthly things. Of what value are all created goods 
when compared with the graces of God. Before the thought of the sovereign beauty of 
God, the soul will readily renounce all earthly things, and reach the point of conguering 
the threefold concupiscence to which so many souls are subject on earth and which 
prevents them from flying to heaven (1 John 2:16). 

4. To advance with great confidence along the path of union with God. Nothing can 
detain the soul if it wishes to proceed at any cost, God, who calls the soul to a life of 
intimate union with himself, extends his divine hand with the absolute guarantee of his 
omnipotence, mercy, and fidelity to his promises. The world, the devil, and the flesh will 
declare war against the soul, "but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, 
they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and trot be weary, they shall 
walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:31). With good reason did St. John of the Cross say that hope 
is that which especially makes the soul pleasing to the beloved, and that by it the soul will 
attain all that it desires. 

The following are the principál characteristics of the virtue of hope in perfect souls: 

1. Universal confidence in God. Nothing is able to discourage a servant of God when he 
or she enters upon an enterprise pertaining to the divine glory. One would say that 
contradictions and obstacles, far from diminishing the virtue of hope, intensity and 
augment it. Such a soul's confidence in God will sometimes reach the point of holý 
audacity. As St. Paul Said of Abraham, these holý souls hope "against hope" (Rom. 
4:18). They are disposed atany moment to repeatthe heroic phrase of Job: "Slay me 
though he might, I will wait for him" (Job 13:15). This heroic confidence glorifies God 
greatly and is of the greatest merit for the soul. 

2. Indestructible peace and serenity. This is a natural conseguence of their universal 
confidence in God. Nothing can disturb the tranguillity of their spirit. Ridicule, 
persecution, calumny, injury, sickness, misfortune -- everything falls upon their souls like 
water on a stone, without leaving the slightest trace or alteration in the serenity of their 
spirit. One would say that their souls had lost contact with the things of this world and 
were as tranguil as if they were already in eternity. 

3. The desire to die in order to reach heaven. This is one of the clearest signs of the 
perfection of hope. Nature experiences an instinctive horror of death. Only when grace 
has taken complete possession of the soul can one desire death in order to live the true 
life hereafter. Then the soul gives expression to the "I die because I do not die" of St. 
Augustine, which was repeated later by St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. "Pressing on 
the Christian, to be sure, are the need and the duty to battle against evil through manifold 
tribulations and even to suffer death. But, linked with the paschal mystery and patterned 

on the dying Christ, ne will hasten forward to resurrection in tne strength which comes 
from hope." (12) 

4. Heaven begins on earth. The saints desire to die to go to heaven, but in reality their life 
in heaven has already begun on earth. What do the things of this world matter to them? 
The servants of God live on earth only in their bodies, but their souls and their yeaming 
are fixed on heaven. It is simply another way of stating the phrase: "We háve our 
citizenship in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). 


According to St. Thomas, the gift that pertains to the perfection of the virtue of hope is fear of 
the Lord. This gift also relates to temperance under certain aspects. 

The gift of fear is a supernatural hábit by which the just soul, under the instinct of the Holý 
Spirit acguires a speciál docility for subjecting itself completely to the divine will out of 
reverence for the excellency and majesty of God. God in himself, as supreme and infinite 
goodness, cannot be an object of fear; he is an object of love. But so far as he is able to punish us 
for our sins, he can and ought to be feared. St. Thomas harmonizes fear and hope by saying that 
in God there are justice and mercy, the first of which arouses fear in us, the second, hope. And 
thus, for different reasons, God is the object of fear and of hope.(13) 

It is necessary to examine the nature of this fear, however, because there are many types of fear 
and not all of them are gifts of the Holý Spirit. Some of them are not even virtues. Fear can be 
divided into mundane fear, servile fear, filial fear and initial fear. 

Mundane fear is that which would not hesitate to offend God in order to avoid some temporal 
evil. This fear is always evil because it places its end and goal in this world and turns its back 

Servile fear is that which serveš God and fulfills his divine will because of the punishment that 
would fall upon us if we did not do so (temporal punishment or the eternal punishment of hell). 
This fear, although imperfect, is substantially good; it enables us to avoid sin, and it is directed to 
God as to its end. 

Filial fear (also called reverential fear) is that which serveš God and fulfills his divine will, 
fleeing from sin because it is an offense against God and for fear of being separated from him. 
This fear, as is evident, is good and perfect. It flees from sin without taking any account of 

Initial fear is that which occupies an intermediate pláce between the last two types of fear. It 
flees from sin principally as an offense against God, but there is mixed with this flight a certain 
fear of punishment. This fear is better than servile fear, but it is not as perfect as filial fear. 

The guestion now arises: which of these types of fear is the gift of the Holý Spirit? Evidently the 
gift of fear is not a mundane or servile fear. Mundane fear is sinful, and servile fear, although not 
evil of itself, could be found even in a sinner by means of an actual grace that would move him 

to sorrow because of the fear of punishment. According to St. Thomas, only filial or chaste fear 
is the gift of fear, for it is based on charity or reverence of God as Father, and it fears to be 
separated from him. 

Three principál virtues are perfected by the operation of the gift of fear: hope, temperance, and 
humility. The gift of fear gives us supernatural awareness of our dependence on God and inclines 
us to rely only on the infinite power of God, the formal motive of hope. Therefore St. Thomas 
states that the gift of fear looks principally at God, and in this sense it pertains to the virtue of 
hope; but secondarily it helps to correct the disorderly tendency by which we experience a strong 
attraction to carnal delight, thus aiding and strengthening the virtue of temperance. The gift of 
fear also perfects humility by making the soul realize its nothingness before God and 
acknowledge the punishment it deserves for its offenses against Goďs infinite majesty. 

In addition to these three fundamental virtues, the gift of fear also exercises its influence in 
regard to other moral virtues. It acts on the virtues of modesty and chastity by imparting a 
repugnance to anything shameful; on the virtue of meekness, by controlling disordered anger. 
Moreover, it serveš as a brake on the passions when they woulď otherwise exceed the limits of 

The effects of the gift of fear are of great value in the sanctification of souls. The following are 
the principál effects of this gift: 

1. A lively sentiment ofthe grandeur and majesty ofGod, which arouses in the soul a 
profound adoration filled with reverence and humility. This is the most characteristic 
effect of the gift of fear, and it follows from its definition. Before the infinite majesty of 
God the soul feels as if it is nothing or less than nothing. It is filled with such reverence, 
submission, and subjection that it feels great desires to suffer for God (St. John of the 
Cross). This reverence for the majesty of God is also manifested in all the things that 
háve any relationship to God. A church or orátory, the priest, sacred vessels, the images 
of the saints all are regarded with respect and veneration. The gift of piety produces 
similar effects, but from another point of view, as we shall see later. 

2. A great horror ofsin and a lively sorrow for ever having committed sin. Once its faith 
is illumined by the splendor of the gifts of understanding and knowledge, and once its 
hope has been subjected to the action of the gift of fear, the soul understands as nevěr 
before the malice of any offense against God, however insignificant. It understands the 
rigor with which divine justice must punish sin in the next life if penance is not doně in 
this life. The repentance of such souls for the slightest fault is most profound. From it 
proceeds the anxious desire to make reparation for sin and an irresistible tendency to 
crucify oneself in a thousand ways. 

3. An extréme vigilance to avoid the occasion ofoffending God. This is a logical 
conseguence of the previous effect. These souls fear nothing so much as the slightest 
offense against God. They háve seen clearly that in reality the only evil in the world is sin 
and that the others do not deserve to be called evil. 

4. Perfect detachment from all created things. We háve already seen that the gift of 
knowledge produces this effect in the soul, but from another point of view. The gifts are 

interrelated among themselves and with charity, and for that reason they mutually 
influence each other. This is perfectly understandable. The soul that has become aware of 
the grandeur and majesty of God must necessarily consider all created things as empty 
and useless. Honors, wealth, power, and dignity -- all are considered as less than straw 
and unworthy of a moment of attention. 

In addition to the generál means for disposing oneself for the impetus of the Holý Spirit -- 
recollection, purity of heart, fidelity to grace, freguent invocation of the Holý Spirit -- there are 
other methods more dosely connected with the gift of fear. 

1. To meditate frequently on the infinite grandeur and majesty ofGod. We can nevěr by 
our own discursive methods acguire the contemplative knowledge that is given to the 
soul by the gifts of the Holý Spirit. But we can do something by reflecting on the power 
and majesty of God. 

2. To accustom oneself to converse with God with filial confidence, filled with reverence. 
We should nevěr forget that God is our Father, but that he is also a God of terrible 
grandeur and majesty. Sometimes pious souls forget the latter and allow themselves to be 
excessively familiar with God and even to give expression to irreverent audacity. It is 
certainly incredible to see the extent to which the Lord gives expression of his familiarity 
with souls that are pleasing to him, but it is necessary that he také the initiative and not 
the soul. Meanwhile the soul should remain in an attitude of reverence and submission, 
which is not incompatible with the sweet and intimate confidence of adopted children. 

3. To meditate frequently on the infinite malice ofsin and to arouse a great horror for 
sin. In itself, love is much more powerful and efficacious than fear as a motive for 
avoiding sin. Nevertheless, the consideration of fear is a great help in keeping souls from 
sin. The recollection of the terrible punishment God has prepared for those who 
definitively reject his law would be sufficient to make us flee from sin if we would 
meditate on it. It is a fearful thing, as St. Paul says (Heb. 10:31), to fall into the hands of 
an offended God. To this end, it will be of great help if we avoid all dangerous occasions 
that may lead us to sin, practice the daily examination of conscience with fidelity, and 
consider Jesus crucified as the victim of propitiation for our crimes and sins. 

4. To be meek and humble in dealing with our neighbor. He who has a clear concept of 
what God is in his infinite majesty and realizes that God has mercifully pardoned him 
thousands of times, how can he dare to exact with haughtiness and disdain that which is 
owed to him by his neighbor (Matt. 18:23-35)? We must pardon injuries, and we must 
treat all our neighbors with exguisite humility and meekness. We n should consider them 
to be better than we are, at least in the sense that perhaps they háve not resisted grace as 
much as we háve, or they would not háve sinned if they had received the gifts God has 
given us. 

5. To beg frequently ofthe Holý Spirit a reverential fear ofGod. When all is said and 
doně, every perfect disposition is a gift of God, and it can be attained only by humility 
and persevering prayer. Scripture is filled with sublime formulas by which we can 
petition holý fear and make us understand that fear of the Lord is the beginning of 
wisdom (Sir. 1:16). We must work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), as 

ťhe Holý Spirit warns us through the psalmist: "Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling 
kiss his feet, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way" (Ps. 2:11). 


St. Thomas begins his treatise on charity by stating that it is friendship between God and man. 
Like every friendship, it implies a mutual love based on the communication of some good. For 
that reason charity necessarily presupposes sanctifying grace, which makes us children of God 
and heirs of glory. By nature we are nothing more than servants of the Creator, but through grace 
and charity we become the children and friends of God. And if our servitude ennobles us so 
greatly, since to serve God is to reign, how much more are we elevated by the charity of God, 
which is "poured into our hearts through the Holý Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5). 
Such is the lofty dignity of the Christian. 

Charity is a supematural hábit infused by God into the will, by which we love God for himself 
above all things, and ourselves, and our neighbor for God. The object of charity is primarily God, 
secondarily ourselves and our fellow human beings. The object of charity is God as supreme 
goodness in himself and as our ultimate end. 

As an infused hábit, charity resides in the will because it involves a movement of love toward the 
supreme good, and love and the good constitute the act and the proper object of the will. It is a 
supematural hábit God infuses in the degree that pleases him, without taking into account the 
natural gualities or dispositions of the one who receives charity. 

Charity as a virtue is specifically one, for although it embraces various objects (God, ourselves, 
and all human beings), the motive of charity in all cases is the divine goodness. Hence, when we 
love ourselves -or our neighbor for any motive other than the goodness of God, we do not make 
an act of charity, but an act of natural human love, whether selfish love or benevolent love. 
Purely human love as such is of no value in the supematural order. 

Charity is the most excellent of all virtues, not only because it is the virtue that intimately unites 
us with God, but also because it is the form of all the infused virtues. Its intrinsic excellence 
derives from the fact that it is the virtue that unites us most intimately with God. It far surpasses 
the theological virtues of faith and hope, as St. Paul teaches: "There are in the end three things 
that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13). 

By the act of charity, the will goes forth from itself to rest in God as he is in himself. This 
profound doctrine gives us the key to the solution of the much-debated guestion conceming the 
superiority of the intellect or the will. The will in itself is inferior to the intellect, for it is a blind 
faculty and cannot produce its acts if the intellect does not pláce the desirable object before the 
will. The intellect precedes and guides the will, which could not love anything without the 
intellect. It is impossible to love what one does not know. But the operation of the intellect is 
distinct from that of the will. The intellect draws things to itself or absorbs them, so to speak, 
into its own intellectual mold. Conseguently, when it knows inferior beings such as materiál 
things, it ennobles them and dignifies them by raising them to the intellectual order; but when it 
knows superior beings such as God or supematural truths, it limits them by obliging them to 
assume an inferior intellectual mold. 

The exact opposite is trne of the will. By reason of its proper act, which is to love, the will goes 
forth from itself to rest in the beloved object as it is in itself. Consequently, if the will loves 
objects that are inferior to itself, such as the things of earth, it is degraded to an inferior level; but 
if it loves superior beings, such as God, it is ennobled and elevated to the level of those superior 
beings in which it rests through love. For that reason St. Augustine could say: "If you love the 
earth, you are earthly; but if you love God, what must be said except that you are God?" 

It follows, therefore, that although the intellect is in itself more perfect than the will, 
nevertheless, in this life, by the very nature of the operation, it is more perfect to love God than 
to know him. A theologian may know a great deal about God, but in A manner that is cold and 
purely intellectual, while a humble and simple soul who knows almost nothing about theology 
may love God intensely, and this is much better. 

Another practical consequence of great importance follows from this sublime doctrine. The only 
way to avoid debasing ourselves by the love of inferior created things is to love them in God, 
through God, and for God; in otherwords, for the formal motive of charity. Charity can 
transform whatever it touches, even the things inferior to us but directed through charity to the 
glory of God. 

Charity can increase in this life because it is a movement toward God, our ultimate end, and so 
long as we are wayfarers in this life it is possible to approach more and more dosely to the goal. 
This greater proximity is effected precisely through the increase of charity. Moreover, charity 
does not admit of any term or limit in this life; it can grow indefinitely. This does not mean, 
however, that charity cannot reach a relative perfection, as we háve already explained (see 

Like all the other habits, charity increases, not by the addition of one form to another form, but 
by a greater radication of the virtue in the subject. It cannot increase by addition because such an 
increase is not possible in qualitative things but only in quantitative things, and habits are 
classified as qualities. Thus the will participates more and more in charity so far as it is more 
penetrated by charity. 

Like the other virtues, charity is not increased by any act whatever, but only by an act that is 
more intense than the hábit as actually possessed here and now. If charity were increased by 
addition, then any act of charity, however weak and remiss, would increase charity. Thus, simply 
by the multiplication of many remiss acts, the thermometer of habitual charity would rise to a 
surprising degree and even surpass the charity of many of the saints. Such an explanation of the 
increase of charity leads only to absurdity. 

The true nature of the increase of charity is far different. As a qualitative form, it can increase 
only by a more profound radication in the subject, and this is impossible without a more intense 
act. This is in conformity with the increase of habits even on the natural level. They need a more 
intense act to increase as habits. 

We now háve an important practical conclusion. Persons who live in slothfulness and tepidity 
can paralyze their Christian life completely, even if they live habitually in the grace of God and 
perform a large number of good but remiss works. This is amply verified in daily experience. A 
large number of good souls live habitually in the grace of God, without committing any serious 

faults but perf orming many good works and acts of sacrifice, but they are far from being saints. 
If they encounter any contradiction or difficulty, they become angry; if they are lacking anything, 
their laments are raised to heaven; if their superiors command something that does not please 
them, they murmur and complain; if anyone criticizes or humiliates them, they become enemies 
of those persons. All this shows clearly that such individuals are still very far from Christian 

But how can one explain this phenomenon after these persons háve performed so many good 
works for so many years in the Christian life? The theological explanation is simple: they háve 
performed a great many good works, it is true; but they háve performed them in a lukewarm 
manner and not in such a way that each new act is more fervent. Rather, each succeeding act is 
more remiss and more imperfect. They are as lukewarm and imperfect as if they were at the very 
beginning of the path to holiness. 

But one may ask: "Then are all those good works that were remiss and imperfect of no avail 
whatever? Are remiss acts completely useless and sterile?" 

To this we reply that the remiss acts are not completely useless and sterile. They serve a twofold 
purpose, one in this life and the other in glory . In this life they prevent the dispositions of soul 
from becoming completely cold, which would put these people in the proximate occasion of 
committing a grave sin and thus destroying their Christian life completely. A person who does 
not perform an act that is more intense than the virtuous hábit he or she possesses will not 
increase the virtuous hábit but neither will the hábit be lost completely. The degree of charity 
attained will nevěr diminish of itself, even if a person lives for many years in tepidity and 
performs acts that are remiss or less intense. Therefore, something is achieved by these remiss 
acts because they at least help to preserve the soul in the statě of grace. They likewise preserve 
the essential degree of merit already gained. 

Remiss acts do not remain without their proper reward in the life to come, although they do not 
increase the degree of essential glory that corresponds to the habitual degree of one's grace and 
charity at the time of death. In addition to the essential reward in heaven, however, there are 
many different accidental rewards. Each remiss act since it was good and meritorious for having 
been performed in a statě of grace and under the influence of charity, will receive its 
corresponding accidental reward in heaven. 

Charity does not refer to God alone, but also to one's neighbors. The love of God causes us to 
love whatever pertains to God or whatever reflects his goodness, and it is evident that one's 
neighbor is a good of God and shares, or can share, in etemal happiness. For that reason the love 
of charity with which we love our neighbor is exactly the samé charity with which we love God. 
There are not two charities but only one, since the formal motive of loving one's neighbor is the 
goodness of God reflected in him. Hence, when we love our neighbors for any other motive 
distinct from God, we do not love them with the love of charity. 

We should also love ourselves with the love of charity, although strictly speaking, one cannot 
love oneself as a friend, for that reguires another person. However, our love for ourselves is the 
model and root of friendship because friendship for others consists precisely in the fact that our 
attitude to them is the samé as to ourselves. Moreover, love is divided into "friendship- love" and 
"desire-love." The former is directed to a person; the latter to a thing desired for a person. 

Therefore, not only does love of šelf come under tne virtue of charity, but it has priority over 
love of neighbor. (14) In loving ourselves in charity we love ourselves as persons sharing in the 
nature and life of God through grace, and at the samé time we love God as our ultimate end and 
source of our perfect happiness. 

The love that is charity is "friendship-love." It is a generous love or gift love, and it consists 
more in loving than in being loved. When this type of love predominates, it should produce the 
following effects: 

1. Union with the beloved, which in the spirituál life means living constantly in the 
presence of God and fostering this recollection by the practice of mental prayer, which is 
the language of love. 

2. D etachment from created things, which means that one uproots all attachments to 
created things in order to advance toward ever greater union with God. 

3. Spirituál joy, which is the fruit of gift love, accompanied by the interior peace that 
flows from living in Goďs grace. 

4. Zeal for the beloved, which is manifested by total submission to Goďs will and the 
works of the apoštoláte that are stimulated by love of neighbor. 

5. Spirit ofsacrifice, which enables one to bear the cross of trials and sufferings out of 
love and, eventually, to seek to be conformed to Jesus crucified. 


The gift of wisdom is a supernatural hábit, inseparable from charity, by which we judge rightly 
concerning God and divine things through their ultimate and highest causes under a speciál 
instinct and movement of the Holý Spirit, who makes us taste these things by a certain 
connaturality. The gift of wisdom perfects charity by giving it the divine modality it lacks so 
long as charity is subject to the rule of human reason, even illumined by faith. So far as it 
presupposes a judgment, the gift of wisdom resides in the intellect as in its proper subject, but as 
a judgment by a kind of connaturality with divine things, it presupposes charity, for this is not a 
purely speculative wisdom but a practical wisdom. It is trne it belongs to the gift of wisdom, in 
the first pláce, to contemplate the divine, but in the second pláce, it pertains to wisdom to direct 
human acts according to divine things. 

The philosophers defined wisdom as certain and evident knowledge of things through their 
ultimate causes. Those who contemplate a thing and know its proximate or immediate causes 
háve scientific knowledge. Those who can reduce their knowledge to the ultimate principles of 
the natural order possess philosophical wisdom, which is called metaphysics. Those who, guided 
by the light of faith, investigate the revealed data of revelation deduce conclusions from them 
and possess theological wisdom. But those who, presupposing faith and sanctifying grace, judge 
divine things and human things through their ultimate causes by a kind of divine instinct possess 
supernatural wisdom, and this is the gift of wisdom. Beyond this, there is no higher type of 
wisdom in this life. It is surpassed only by the beatific vision and the uncreated wisdom of God. 

It is evident, therefore, that the knowledge given by the gift of wisdom is incomparably superior 
to all human sciences, even theology. For that reason a simple and uneducated soul lacking the 
theological knowledge acguired by study may sometimes possess, through the gift of wisdom, a 
more profound knowledge of divine things than an eminent theologian. 

A certain connaturality is another notě that characterizes the gifts of the Holý Spirit, and it 
reaches its highest perfection in the gift of wisdom. Souls that experience this will understand 
very well the meaning of the words: "Taste and see how good the Lord is" (Ps. 34:9). They 
experience a divine delight that sometimes enables them to know something of the ineffable joy 
of eternal beatitude. 

From this sublime doctrine follow two inevitable conclusions of great importance in the theology 
of Christian perfection. The first is that the mystical statě is not something extraondinary in the 
full development of the Christian life; it is the normál atmosphere that grace demands, so that it 
can develop in all its virtualities. 

The second conclusion is that an actuation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit in the human mode, 
besides being impossible, would be utterly useless for the perfecting of the infused virtues, and 
especially of the theological virtues. Since the latter are superior to the gifts of the Holý Spirit by 
reason of their nature, the only perfection they could receive from the gifts is that of the divine 
mode, which is exclusive and proper to the gifts. 

By reason of its elevation and grandeur and by reason of the sublimity of the virtue it perfects, 
the effects produced by the gift of wisdom are truly remarkable. The following are the principál 
effects of this gift: 

1. It gives to the saints a divine sense by which theyjudge all things. This is the most 
impressive of all the effects of the gift of wisdom so far as they are manifested extemally. 
One would say that the saints háve completely lost the human manner of judgment and 
that it has been replaced by a divine instinct by which they judge all things. They see 
everything from Goďs point of view, whether the commonplace episodes of daily life or 
the great events of life. They nevěr fix their attention on secondary causes but pass them 
by, to arrive immediately atthe Supreme Cause, who govems and rules them from above. 

2. It makes saints live the mysteries offaith in an entirely divine manner. Introduced by 
charity into the intimacy of the divine Persons, the divinized soul, under the impulse of 
the Spirit of love, contemplates all things from this center. God is present to the soul in 
all his divine attributes and in all his great mysteries. In the measure in which it is 
possible for a simple creature, the gáze of the soul resembles the vision God has of 
himself and of the entire universe. It is a godlike type of contemplation experienced in the 
light of the Deity, and in it the soul experiences ineffable sweetness. 

3. It makes them live in union with the three divine Persons through an ineffable 
participation in their trinitarian life. The gift of knowledge acts by an ascending 
movement, raising the soul from creatures to God; the gift of understanding penetrates 
Goďs mysteries from without and within by a simple loving gáze; the gift of wisdom 
penetrates the very life of the Trinity. Thus the soul sees things only from their highest 
and most divine cause. 

The soul that has reached these heights can give itself to all types of work, even the most 
absorbing, but in the center of the soul it experiences the divine company of the Three. 
Martha and Mary háve been joined in an ineffable manner, so that the prodigious activity 
of Martha in no way compromises the peace and tranguillity of Mary, who remains at the 
feet of the divine Master. 

4. It raises the virtue of charity to heroism. This is precisely the purpose of the gift of 
wisdom. Freed from human limitations, charity reaches tremendous proportions. It is 
incredible what the love of G od can do in souls that are under the operations of the gift of 
wisdom. Such souls love God with a pure love only for his infinite goodness and without 
the mixture of any human motives or self-interest. True, they do not renounce their hope 
for heaven; they desire it more than ever, but they desire it primarily because there they 
shall be able to love God with even greater intensity and without any intermption. 

Love of neighbor also reaches a sublime perfection through the gift of wisdom. 
Accustomed to see God in all things, even in the most minuté details of daily life, the 
saints see him in a speciál way in their neighbor. They love their neighbor with a 
tenderness that is completely supernatural. They serve their neighbor with heroic 
abnegation. Seeing Christ in the poor, in those who suffer, in the heart of all their 
brothers and sisters, they hasten to serve all with a soul filled with love. They are happy 
to deprive themselves of even the necessities of life in order to give them to their 
neighbor, whose interest they pláce and prefer before their own, as they would put the 
interests of Christ before their own. 

5. It gives to all the virtues their ultimate perfection and makes them truly divine. 
Perfected by the gift of wisdom, charity extends the divine influence to all the other 
virtues, because charity is the form of all the virtues. The whole supernatural organism 
experiences the divine influence of the gifts of the Holý Spirit. All the Christian virtues 
acguire a godlike modality that admits of countless shades and manifestations. Having 
died definitively to šelf, being perfect in every type of virtue, the soul has arrived at the 
summit of the mount of sanctity, where it reads the inscription written by St. John of the 
Cross: "Here on this mountain dwell only the honor and glory of God." 

A part from the generál means such as recollection, a life of prayer, fidelity to grace, and 
humility, one can dispose oneself for the actuation of the gift of wisdom by using the following 
means, which are within the workings of ordinary grace: 

1. By seeing and evaluating all things from Goďs point ofview. How many souls, even 
among those who are consecrated to God, fall into the hábit of judging things from a 
purely natural and human point of view! If things do not go their way, they accuse others 
of all sorts of imperfections and even malice; but when things proceed according to their 
personál good and pleasure, they attribute everything to God. Actually, they are willing to 
do Goďs will whenever it happens to coincide with their own interests. Truly spirituál 
persons accept all things, whether pleasant or painful, with a spirit of eguanimity, and if 
things are painful or even unjust, they can still see the spirituál value of such experiences, 
if only as a means of purification and penance. Even the smallest works are seen in the 
light of supernatural value and merit and, although they are conscious of the defects of 
others, they are even more aware of their own imperfections. 

2. By combatting the wisdom ofthe world, which is foolishness in the eyes ofGod. St. 
Paul speaks frequentiy in this manner, but the greater percentage of us rely on this 
worlďs wisdom. Y et Christ constantiy wams us in his teaching that we should expect to 
be a contradiction and a paradox to the world. This does not mean that the world as such 
is evil, but it does mean that those who live and act for worldly goals and according to 
worldly standards will inevitably háve to jettison the standards of God. The lives of the 
saints are replete with instances in which the gift of wisdom caused them to perform 
actions that were foolish in the eyes of the worldly but were divine and prudent from a 
supernatural point of view. 

3. By detaching oneselffrom things ofthis world, however good and useful. Everything in 
its proper pláce. Even the holiest and most beneficial created goods can become a source 
of temptation and sin if we are too attached to them. As soon as anything outside of God 
becomes a goal or end in itself rather than a means to God, the soul is diverted from its 
proper orientation to God. This applies not only to the obvious dangers, such as wealth 
and pleasure and ambition, but also to things good in themselves, such as the study of 
theology, the liturgy, private devotions, penitential practices -- even to the use of the 
means to sanctity itself. A 11 of these, if exaggerated or sought after with a selfish spirit, 
can become obstacles to union with God and the operation of the gift of wisdom that 
flows from that union. 

4. By cultivating indifference to spirituál consolations. It is Goďs way to lead a soul to 
him by conferring spirituál consolations, but the time comes when these consolations are 
removed and the soul is tested, purified, and made strong in love. One must strive 
diligently to cultivate true devotion, which implies a resolute will to serve God at any 
cost. We naturally are drawn to those things that give us pleasure, whether spirituál or 
sensual; hence all the more reason for detachment and self-denial. The common error is 
to love the gift rather than the giver, and for that reason G od withdraws consolations 
.when the soul is ready to pass on to another phase of its spirituál development. To love 
and serve God in darkness and privation is by far a greater proof of one's fidelity than to 
love him in periods of delight and consolation. 


VaticanCouncil I, Denz.-Schón. 3008, 3011. 

Vatican Council II, Declaration on Religious Liberty, n. 10. 

Cf. Denz.-Schón. 1530. 

Ibid., 1544; 1578. 

Ibid., 1532. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 5, a. 4. 

Ibid., q. 8, a. 1. 

Má., q. 69, a. 2, ad 3. 

Má., qq. 9 and 19. 

Denz.-Schón. 1540. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 17, a. 2, ad 2. 

Pastorál Constitution on the Church in theMoáern Worlá, n. 22. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 19, a. 1, ad 2. 

/bíd., I-II, q. 26, aa. 1-4. 

The M oral Virtues 

Once ťhe various faculties of the soul are rectified in regard to the supernatural order through the 
theological virtues, it is necessary to rectify them in regard to the means for attaining that end. 
This is the role of the moral virtues. As we háve already mentioned, it is impossible to enumerate 
all the moral virtues, since there can be a virtue wherever there can be a morally good hábit 
regarding a given area of human activity, and human activities are multiple. However, 
theologians generally group the moral virtues around the basic cardinal virtues of prudence, 
justice, temperance, and fortitude. 

We shall limit ourselves to a discussion of the cardinal virtues and a brief exposition of some of 
the secondary virtues connected with them. To do more would carry us too far into the domain of 
moral theology. 


The first of the four cardinal virtues and the most important as a fulcrum for all the other moral 
virtues is prudence. It is a speciál virtue infused by God into the practical intellect for the right 
govemment of one's actions in view of the supernatural end. By reason of origin, infused 
prudence is given by God with sanctifying grace. By reason of extension or application, infused 
prudence governs the supernatural order. By reason of the formal motive, infused prudence 
operates under reason enlightened by faith and informed with charity. 

Prudence is the most necessary of all the moral virtues because its function is precisely to point 
out and command the just mean or measure in regard to any and all human actions. It enables us 
to judge accurately what is the morally good thing to do under particular circumstances. In a 
certain sense, even the theological virtues come under the domain of prudence, for there are 
occasions and circumstances in which supernatural prudence must dictate the proper operations 
of faith, hope, and charity. Indeed, it can be said that, without prudence, no other virtue can be 
practiced with perfection. 

The importance of the virtue of . prudence is especially evident in certain aspects of human life. 
First, it helps the individual avoid sin, pointing out through experience the causes and occasions 
of sin as well as the opportune remedies. Secondly, it contributes to the increase and growth of 
virtue, judging in each instance what should be doně or avoided in view of one's sanctification, It 

is sometimes difficult to judge in a given instance which of two virtues is to be practiced; for 
example, justice or mercy, recollection or apostolic zeal, fortitude or meekness. Thirdly, 
prudence assists greatly in the works of the apoštoláte, whether in the pulpit the confessional,. or 

There are three acts involved in the functioning of prudence: deliberation, judgment, and 
execution. First of all, depending on the importance and the complexity of the matter, one must 
consider the various means for attaining an end or the various ways of performing an action. It is 
at this point that one needs a knowledge of principles or norms of action and at the samé time the 
ability to relate those principles to the čase at nand, with all its existential circumstances. Once 
the matter has been deliberated, a judgment is made as to the proper method of action in this 
particular matter. Lastly, the will gives the command to carry out the decision. 

Eight integrál parts are reguired for the perfection of the virtue of prudence, five of which pertain 
to the speculative aspect and three to the practical aspect. Each and every part will not 
necessarily function in every instance of the exercise of the virtue, but all must be possessed so 
that they will function when particular circumstances reguire. The eight parts are: 

1. Memory ofthe past, so that one may leam from experience what is to be doně or 
avoided in particular circumstances. 

2. Understanding ofthe present, so that one may judge whether a given action is lawful 
or unlawful, morally good or evil, fitting or unfitting. 

3. D odlity, so that those who lack experience may accept the counsel and advice of those 
who háve experience. 

4. Sagacity, so that one may act rightly in urgent cases when time or circumstances do not 
permit delay. 

5. Reasoning power, so that when time permits, one may act after the reguired 
consideration and reflection. 

6. Foresight, so that one may judge the immediate means in view of the end or goal being 

7. Circumspection, so that one may také into consideration the speciál circumstances 
surrounding a given act, as to persons and places. 

8. Precaution, so that one will také into consideration the possible obstacles from 
without, or one's own weakness or incapacity in view of a given action.(l) 

The practice of any virtue varies according to the statě of perfection of the individual Christian. 
This is very evident in the čase of prudence, which is the virtue of maturity, and hence is usually 
deficient in the young, due to lack of experience and the tendency to be motivated by emotions 
or sentiments ratherthan govemed by reason. There are, however, certain basic practices that can 
be utilized for the cultivation of prudence. 

Beginners in the spirituál life, whose dominant concern is to remain in the statě of grace and 
grow in virtue, need to fosterthe particular characteristics just mentioned, concentrating 

especially on reasoning power, docílily, memory of the past foresight, circumspection, and 
caution. They should always reflect before acting, nevěr postponing decisions to the last minuté 
or being influenced unduly by passion or selfishness. They should try to project into the future in 
order to foresee the possible effects of their actions. They should look carefully at all the 
circumstances surrounding a decision or action. They should remain firm in their decisions and 
conscientiously perform the duty of the moment. They should avoid all types of duplicity and 
craftiness and not yield to the temptation to use pretexts or rationalization to excuse themselves 
from their obligations or from sin. It would be very helpful for the young to háve a model, if only 
the generál example of good-living Christians. Lastly, it is helpful to evaluate all one's actions in 
terms of salvation: what does this profit me toward eternal life 

Advanced souls should sti.ll be solicitous to perfect the virtue of prudence through charity, 
striving to do all things for the glory of God. More and more should they try to conform to the 
pattern of Christ, asking what Jesus would do in a given situation. Being more immediately 
concerned with striving for the perfection of charity, they should conform to the higher norm of 
Christian living, which states that not all things that are lawful are fitting and proper for a holý 
Christian. Conseguently, they should be more careful to avoid venial sin and the occasions of sin 
and should be more attentive and docile to the movements of grace and the promptings of the 
Holý Spirit. More and more they should interiorize the norms of Christian living so that they 
háve the mind of Christ guiding them in all that they do. 

Souls highly perfected in charity should dispose themselves to practice the virtue of prudence 
under the impulse of the gift of counsel. 


The gift of counsel is a supernaturally infused hábit by which the Holý Spirit enables one to 
judge rightly in particular events what ought to be doně in view of the supernatural ultimate end 
and personál sanctification. Whereas the virtue of prudence operates according to the dictates of 
reason enlightened by faith, the gift of counsel operates under the impulse of the Holý Spirit. 
Thus it often commands actions for which human reason would nevěr be able to give an 
explanation, nor would human reason alone, even with the light of faith, be able to come to such 
practical and particular judgments. 

It is therefore evident that the gift of counsel is necessary in those cases in which an immediate 
judgment is reguired, but there is neither the ability nor the opportunity to make the decision 
under the virtue of prudence, which works always in a human mode. For example, it is at times 
difficult to know how to eguate suavity with firmness, how to reconcile the necessity of guarding 
a secret with the obligation to speak the truth, the interior life with the apoštoláte, an affectionate 
love with perfect chastity. It is even more difficult for persons charged with govemment and 
administration -- in religion, in the family, in civil and economic life -- to be able at every 
instance to do that which is prudent. In many instances, the prudent action will háve to be the 
result of the operation of the gift of counsel. 

When the gift of counsel operates in souls, it produces marvelous effects, of which the principál 
ones are the following: 

1. It preserves one from the danger ofa falše conscience. This is especially important for 

moral theologians, spirituál directors, confessors, and preachers of the Gospel. 

2. It provides the solution to many difficult and unexpected situations and problems. If a 
soul is habitually faithful to grace and intent on doing all for the glory of God, the gift of 
counsel will freguently come into play when human reason, either alone or enlightened 
by faith, would be incapable of making the proper judgment. The solution may not be one 
that human prudence would suggest or that reason would approve, but since it comes 
from the Holý Spirit working through the gift, it is always the right solution. 

3. It inspires superiors with the most apt means for governing others. Prudence is not 
restricted to one's personál actions but is the primary virtue reguired for the govemment 
of others. Great indeed is the need for a delicate sense of judgment in the problems 
presented in the direction and government of others. Hence the gift of counsel is often 
necessary for the decisions and commands to be made by the religious superior, the 
spirituál director, and the parents of a family. 

4. It increases one's docility to legitimate superiors. Strange as it may seem, the gift of 
counsel has as one of its most wonderful effects the beautiful trait of docility. God has 
determined that we should be govemed by superiors in all the various phases of life, and 
the Holý Spirit, through the gift of counsel, inspires this subjection to lawful superiors. 

In addition to the generál means for disposing oneself for the operation of the gifts of the Holý 
Spirit there are speciál predispositions necessary for the actuation of the gift of counsel: 

1. Profound humility, in order to recognize one's own weakness and ignorance, and thus 
háve recourse to the Holý Spirit for light and guidance. 

2. Reflection and patience, realizing that in some circumstances all possible human 
diligence is insufficient and that the Holý Spirit alone can perform the operation in us. 
But we must wait upon the Lord, who will help us in his own good time, 

3. Ability to listen to Goďs voice, avoiding the noise and tumult of the worid as much as 
possible and cultivating mental prayer practiced in solitude and recollection. 

4. Docility and obedience, for there is nothing that so prevents the Holý Spirit from 
operating in us as does an independent and insubordinate spirit. 


The virtue of prudence is first in excellence and importance among the moral virtues, but the 
virtue of justice is first in the order of generation and development. The first moral lessons taught 
a child are lessons pertaining to justice, rights, and duties. 

As an infused virtue justice is a supematural hábit that inclines the will constantly and 
perpetuaUy to render to each one that which is due strictly.í2_l We say that justice is a constant 
and perpetual disposition of the will because a hábit reguires more than an occasional act of 
virtue. This virtue, moreover, perfects the will and not the intellect, for it pertains to the practical 
order of regulating one's relations with one's neighbors. Further, it pertains to those things due to 

another in the strict sense, unlike the virtues of charity, affability, and gratitude, which are based 
on a certain fittingness and not on a strict obligation. Hence for strict justice there must always 
be present: reference to another, strict obligation, and exact adeguation (neither more nor less 

After pmdence, justice is the most excellent of all the moral virtues, although it is inferior to the 
theological virtues and even to the annexed virtue of religion. Its importance in both personál and 
sociál life is evident. It puts things in their right order and thus prepares the way for trne peace, 
which St. Augustine defines as the tranguillity of order, and Scripture defines as the work of 

In every kind of justice two things are reguired in order that one may be called just in the full 
sense of the word: to refrain from evil toward one's neighbor and society, and to do the reguired 
good for one's neighbor and society. These two aspects are, therefore, the integrál parts without 
which perfect justice is impossible. 

The close connection between the integrál parts of justice and the first law of morality (do good; 
avoid evil) makes it evident that justice is essential for even natural human perfection. It is 
likewise reguired as the foundation for the perfection of charity, since it would be a strange 
paradox for an individual to attempt to operáte according to the higher standard of charity while 
completely ignoring the demands of justice. 

Moreover, justice is not a purely negative virtue, not merely a matter of refraining from evil 
toward one's neighbor or from violating the neighboťs rights. It reguires, on the one hand, a 
rejection of such evil and, on the other hand, the faithful fulfillment of those obligations to which 
we are bound by various kinds of laws. And although it is generally true that it would be more 
serious to do evil than to omit doing the good to which we are obliged, in certain cases the sin of 
omission against justice is more serious by far than a sin of commission. 

The virtue of justice admits of three species: legal justice, distributive justice, and commutative 

Legal justice is the virtue that inclines the members of a society to render to that society what is 
due in view of the common good or goal of the society. It is called legal because it is based upon, 
and determined by, the laws of the society in guestion, which laws bind in conscience if they are 
just. And since the common good of society normally takés precedence overthe particular good 
of any member of society, justice sometimes reguires that the individual relinguish personál 
goods in view of the well-being of the society as a whole. 

Distributive justice is the virtue that inclines the person in charge of the distribution of goods or 
favors in a society to bestow these things proportionately, according to the dignity, merits, or 
needs of each one. Although the titles of justice may vary with the goods or the persons 
involved, distributive justice works on the principle of rendering to each what is his or her due. 
Thus the distribution of goods should be according to the needs of each person, and the bestowal 
of favors or offices should be according to the merits or abilities of each one. And although one 
may think that justice is measurable in mathematical eguality, when it is a guestion of 
distributive justice it is rather a guestion of proportion, with the result that strict eguality of 
distribution would often be an injustice rather than a justice. 

Commutati ve justice is justice in the fullest sense of the word, since it has to do with the rights 
and duties of individual persons among themselves. It coincides almost exactly with the 
definition of justice itself: the constant and perpetual will of one individual person to render to 
another individual what is due in strict equality. Hence its transgression always involves the 
obligation to make restitution. 

The potential parts of justice are those related virtues connected with justice by reason of one or 
another of its elements, námely, something owed to another by a strict obligation and in some 
measure of equality. On the other nand, these annexed virtues lack something of the perfect 
concept of justice, and for that reason they do not háve the full force of justice. They are divided 
into two groups: those that are not measured in terms of strict equality, and those that are not 
based on the title of a strict right. The generál means of fostering the virtue of justice are the 

1. Avoid even the slightest injustice. It is extremely easy to forth a falše conscience in the 
matter of justice, saying that one or another moral law has no importance. G ranted that 
there may be smallness of matter in many instances, the evils to be sedulously avoided 
are the cultivation of a disdain for little things because they are little, and losing sight of 
the frequency of small injustices that páve the way for a more serious fall. 

2. Nevěr contract debts without necessity and pay one's debts promptly. This is an 
excellent ascetical practice, námely, to learn to do without things that of themselves are 
not necessities. And when necessary debts háve been contracted, the most important duty 
is to pay those debts owed injustice before contracting new ones. 

3. Treat the possessions ofothers as carefully as one's own. Whether it be a question of 
things rented for use or shared in the family or religious community, it is common to find 
a lack of regard for the possessions of others. It is often the sign of selfishness if we 
assume the attitude that what is not ours need not be cared for. 

4. Do not harm the good name of another. One's good name is of much greatervalue than 
created goods, and yet it is often the least respected. How frequently it is said that a 
certain fault of another is common knowledge and therefore there is no need to refrain 
from discussing it. Even worse is the frequency of rash judgment, ridicule, contumely, 
defamation. One must always speak the truth when one speaks, but this does not mean 
that one always has the right to reveal the faults of others. Both in private conversation 
and in modem newspapers and magazines, many sins are committed against justice in 
this matter. 

5. Avoid acceptance of persons, which means favoring them without sufficient reason or 
denying them their lawful rights. This is a sin against, distributive justice; it is committed 
not only in civil society but even in some ecclesiastical and religious communities. The 
basic rile that should determine the distribution of offices and honors and the application 
of punishments should be simply to give to each individual what the merits or faults 
require injustice. As regards the distribution or assignment of offices, the objective 
consideration should usually be conclusive, námely, what does the given position or 
office require, and which person has the capacity and talents to fulfill the task? One of the 
surest safeguards of peace and harmony in any community or society is distributive 

justice on tne part of tne authorities or superiors. 

Particular means for growing in justice can be listed under the headings of the three species of 

1. Legal justice. In a certain sense, the members of a society are also the servants and 
stewards of that society. Every society has its common good or goal protected by the laws 
leading to the attainment of that goal. In this sense, therefore, all members of a society 
are bound in legal justice to comply with the laws that further the common good. Any 
movement of separatism or rebellion. is destructive of the society as such. Thus the 
citizens of a statě, the members of the Church, the children in a family, and the religious 
in a religious institute should fulfill their obligations to the society to which they belong. 
They should be conscientious in fulfilling the laws of the society as perfectly as possible, 
unless speciál circumstances honestly allow for a dispensation or exemption. 

2. Distributive justice. Superiors are administrátore or stewards in the eyes of God. Even 
more, they are the servants of those they govern. The common good of a society or 
community must be preserved at all costs, and this common good is not necessarily the 
selfish good of the majority or a minority; it is the good or goal for which the society 
exists. Conseguently, superiors should always judge in favor of the society as a whole, 
and in the distribution of goods or offices they should seek the individuals who will best 
contribute to that samé common good of the society. . 

3. Commutative justice: To give to each his own is a basic rule for the observance of 
commutative justice. Nothing is small in the eyes of God, and everything good can be an 
occasion for growth in grace and holiness. One of the severest blows we can deliver to 
our own šelf- love is to maintain a delicate sense of justice toward each of our fellow 
beings. This is not an area of like or dislike, of taste or feeling, but simply of doing what 
we are supposed to do, regardless of any other consideration. 

Although it belongs to speciál moral theology to discuss and examine the various virtues in 
particular, there are certain virtues annexed to justice that are so essential to growth in Christian 
perfection that they demand treatment in any book on the theology of Christian perfection. For 
that reason, we single out those virtues having a speciál importance for those who are striving for 
the perfection of the Christian life and suggest that the reader refer to books on moral theology 
for a study of the remaining annexed virtues. 


The virtue of religion is a moral virtue that inclines us to give to God the worship due him as the 
first principle of all things. It is the most important of all the virtues derived from justice, and in 
perfection it surpasses all the other moral virtues, including justice itself. This is by reason of the 
excellence of its object, which is the worship of God, and in this sense it dosely approaches the 
theological virtues. 

Religion has various acts, both intemal and external. The internal acts are devotion and prayer. 
The primary external acts are adoration, sacrifice, and vows. A detailed study of vows belongs in 
moral theology, and the remaining external acts -- offerings, tithes, oaths, adjuration, and praise 
-- are not of immediate importance in spirituál theology. (3) 

Devotion consists in a promptness of will for giving oneself to the things pertaining to the service 
of God. Hence those who in some way devote themselves to God and remain completely subject 
to him are called devout. The essential characteristic of devotion is promptness of will, ever 
disposed to give itself to the things that pertain to Goďs service. 

How, then, is the virtue of religion distinguished in this respect from the virtue of charity? 
Charity arouses devotion because love makes us prompter for the service of the one we love; 
devotion increases charity because friendship is preserved and increased by our services for our 

St. Thomas remarks that as an act of religion, devotion always is directed to God and not to his 
creatures. Hence devotion to the saints should not terminate in the saints themselves, but it 
should pass through them to God. We venerate in the saints that which they háve of God, that is 
to say, we venerate God in them. It is evident from this how mistaken those persons are who 
attach their devotion, not only to particular saint as an end in itself, but even to some particular 
image of a saint, without which they would háve no devotion whatever. Priests and other persons 
who are entrusted with directing the piety of the faithful should instruct the faithful and correct 

The principál extrinsic cause of devotion is God, who calls those he wishes and inflames in their 
hearts the fire of devotion. But the intrinsic cause so far as it pertains to us is meditation on the 
divine goodness and the benefits received from God, together with the consideration of our 
misery, which impels us to subject ourselves completely to God. The most proper effect of 
devotion is to fill the soul with spirituál joy. 

Prayer is the second interior act of the virtue of religion. Unlike devotion, which is localized in 
the will, prayer pertains properly to both the intellect and the will. By reason of its extraordinary 
importance in the spirituál life, we shall dedicate an entire chapter to this matter (see Chapter 

Adoration is an external act of the virtue of religion by which we express the honor and 
reverence due to the divine excellence. Exterior adoration is an expression and an overflow of 
interior adoration, which is primary, and serveš at the samé time to arouse and preserve interior 
adoration. And because God is in all places, we can adore God both intemally and externally in 
all places, although the most proper pláce is in his temple, because he resides there in a speciál 
manner. Moreover, the very atmosphere of a church or chapel helps to withdraw us from the 
noise and distractions of the world, while many holý objects contained there serve to arouse 
devotion, and the presence of other worshipers likewise nourishes the spirit of adoration. 

Sacrifice is the principál act of the external and public worship of God. It consists in the external 
offering of a sensible thing, together with a reál change or destruction of the thing, effected by 
the priest in honor of God, as a testimony of his supreme dominion and our complete submission 
to him. 

A vow is a free and deliberate promise made to God concerning some good that is possible and 
better than its contrary . When made under the proper conditions, it is an excellent act of religion, 
which increases the merit of our good works by directing us to the worship and honor of God. By 
the samé token, the voluntary transgression of a vow is a sin against religion, and if it pertains to 

a matter already forbidden by precept, it constitutes a second sin and must be declared as such in 
confession. If the vows that are broken pertain to a person publicly consecrated to God, the sin 
committed against religion is a sacrilege. Such is not the čase, however, with the breaking of a 
private vow, although it would surely be a grave sin against the virtue of religion -- of infidelity 
to God -- and would háve to be declared explicitly in confession. 


The word piety can be ušed in various senses: (1) as a synonym for devotion, a religious spirit, 
the attention to things that pertain to the worship of God (thus we speak of pious or devout 
persons); (2) as signifying compassion or mercy, and thus we may say: "O Lord, háve pity 
(piety) on us"; (3) as designating a speciál virtue derived from justice, the virtue of piety, which 
we treat here; (4) as referring to one of the seven gifts of the Holý Spirit: the gift of piety. 

As a speciál virtue derived from justice, piety is defined as a supernatural hábit that inclines us to 
render to our parents, our country, and to all those connected with them the reverence and 
services due them. The materiál object of this virtue consists in all the acts of honor, reverence, 
service, and materiál or spirituál aid that are given to one's parents and relatives and country. The 
formal motive of these acts is that one's parents and country are the secondary principle of one's 
being and govemment. To God, as the first principle, is owed the speciál worship given him by 
the virtue of religion. To one's parents and country, as secondary principles, is owed the speciál 
reverence of the virtue of piety. 

Accordingly, the virtue of piety has three different subjects to whom the debts of piety are owed: 
(1) one's parents, to whom this virtue refers primarily, because after God they are the principles 
of one's being, education, and government; (2) one's country, because that also is, in a certain 
sense, a principle of our being, education, and government insofar as it furnishes our parents -- 
and through them, us -- with a multitude of things that are necessary or helpful; (3) one's blood 
relatives because, although they are not the principle of our being and government, nevertheless 
our parents are in some way represented in them, since all proceed from the samé family tree. By 
extension one can also consider as relatives those who form part of the samé spirituál family, for 
example, the members of a religious order, who call the founder their father or mother. 

From what has been said, it should be evident that the virtue of piety is distinct from other 
virtues resembling it, for example, charity toward one's neighbor and legal justice. Piety is 
distinguished from fraternal charity inasmuch as piety is based on the intimate union resulting 
from the samé family tree, while charity is based on the bonds uniting the whole human race 
with God. Again, piety for one's country is distinguished from legal justice in the sense that the 
latter relates to one's country as a common good for all the citizens, while piety considers one's 
country as a secondary principle of one's own being. 


The virtue of observance is a supernatural hábit regulating one's relationships to superiors other 
than God, parents, and civil authority (which belong to religion and piety respectively). By 
means of observance we give reverence and honor to those who possess a speciál dignity or 
authority and hence are deserving of respect. Persons who háve positions of dignity deserve 
honor by reason of their excellence; they deserve obedience from their subjects or inferiors by 

reason of the auťhority of their office or position. Thus, the virtue of observance is divided into 
two parts: honor and obedience; we shall discuss only the virtue of obedience.(4) 


Obedience is an infused moral virtue that makes one's will prompt to fulfill the commands of a 
superior. The command may be verbal or written, but it may also be simply the explicit or tacit 
manifestation of the will of the superior. The obedience will be the more perfect as the individual 
is prompter to execute the will of the superior even before an express command is given. A 11 
subjects of all legitimate superiors are obliged to obey authority, whether that authority be one's 
parents, the civil officials, the pastor in a parish, the teacher in a classroom, a military officer, 
one's employer. However, we are not allowed to obey authority in matters that are unlawful, nor 
may we obey in matters involving sin or the proximate occasion of sin. 

If one extemally performs the act that has been commanded by a superior, but does so with 
intemal rebellion, the obedience is purely materiál and is not a virtue in the strict sense of the 
word. Nevertheless, even materiál obedience suffices to avoid breaking the vow of obedience in 
čase the subject is bound by vow. But when one obeys both intemally and extemally, the 
obedience is then called formal obedience and is an excellent act of virtue. 

As a virtue, obedience is inferior to the theological virtues. By reason of its object it is also 
inferior to some of the moral virtues (e.g., religion). But by reason of that which is sacrificed or 
offered to God, it is the most excellent of all the moral virtues because through the other virtues 
one sacrifices external goods (poverty), corporal goods (virginity), or certain goods of the soul 
that are inferior to the human will, which is sacrificed in the virtue of obedience. For this reason 
St. Thomas does not hesitate to affirm that the religious life, primarily because of the vow of 
obedience, is a true sacrifice offered to God.(5) 

The classical division of the grades or degrees of obedience is as follows: (a) mere external 
execution; (b) voluntary obedience; and (c) submission of the judgment. St. Ignatius Loyola 
explains these grades in a letter to the fathers and brothers of the Society in Portugal.{6) The 
following outline gives the basic points of doctrine contained in the letter. 

1 . St. Ignatius desires that obedience should be the characteristic virtue of the Society 
because of the blessings produced by this virtue, because it is highly praised in Sacred 
Scripture, and because it is the compendium of all the other virtues. He states as the 
fundamental principle of obedience that one should see Christ in the superior, without 
thinking of the superior as an individual person. 

2. Listing the grades of obedience, he states that the first is obedience of execution, which 
is of little value; the second grade is obedience of the will, which possesses the intrinsic 
value of the sacrifice of obedience, so that it is of great merit and it perfects man's free 
will; the third degree is obedience of the intellect. As regards obedience of the intellect, 
St. Ignatius states that it is possible because the will can control the intellect; it is just 
because it is reasonable to control one's judgment and to conform one's will to Goďs; it is 
necessary for the attainment of perfect subordination, for safeguarding oneself against the 
illusions of self-love, for preserving one's tranguillity in obedience, and for preserving 
union with God; and it is perfect obedience, because in this grade of obedience a man 

immolates that which is most excellent, which implies a marvelous victory over šelf. 

3. Then the Saint lists the generál and particular means for achieving the third grade of 
obedience. The generál means are humility and meekness. The particular means are to 
see God in one's superiors, to seek reasons in favor of the command that is given, and to 
accept the command blindly, that is, without any further inguiry, but with a docility 
similar to that which one should háve in regand to matters of faith. This does not mean, 
however, that it would be opposed to the perfection of obedience if one were to statě 
reasons to the superior for making a change in what has been commanded, so long as due 
conditions are observed. However, if a subject should make such a representation to his 
superior, he should do so with complete indifference and with full freedom. 

4. In his finál observation, St. Ignatius remarks that obedience also extends to those who 
háve some charge or office under lawful authority. And he says that the prosperity of 
religious institutes depends on obedience because of the principle of subordination that 
applies to religious institutes. In his finál exhortation he refers to the example of Christ in 
regard to obedience and the great reward that is eamed through obedience. 

The fundamental guality comprising all the others is that obedience should be supernatural, that 
is, inspired by supernatural motives. Only then is obedience a truly Christian virtue. Obedience 
inspired by any purely human motive, however right and lawful in itself, cannot be supernatural. 
But in order that the supernatural guality of obedience may be augmented and preserved, we 
shall enumerate some of the more important characteristics of Christian obedience. We do not 
imply that this list is exhaustive, but if we keep in mind the fundamental guality we háve just 
mentioned, all the other characteristics of obedience will spring forth spontaneously. 

1. A spirit of faith, by which the subject obeys and reveres a superior as another Christ, 
and looks upon the commands of the superior as coming from God. 

2. The firm conviction that by obeying lawful commands of superiors we are fulfilling 
the will of God, and that, although a superior may make a mistake in commanding, the 
subject nevěr makes a mistake in obeying lawful commands. 

3. Obedience out of love of God and acceptance of difficult or distasteful commands in a 
spirit of sacrifice. 

4. Promptness in fulfilling the commands that are given, realizing that we should not 
make Christ wait for our obedience but that we should be prompt to do his will. 

5. Spontaneity in obedience, and even the attempt to anticipate the desires of the superior. 

6. Humility and simplicity, so that we can perform the act of obedience as if it were the 
most natural thing in the world, without giving any attention to the difficulties involved. 

7. Magnanimity, which gives virility to our obedience and provides us with the energy of 
heroes and the fortitude of martyrs. 

8. Universality, so that at all times and to any superior whatever, we obey all commands 
without exception. 

9. Perseverance, so ťhat in time of joy or sorrow, in healťh or in sickness, regardless of 
any personál condition or taste, we would obey, realizing that obedience gives power and 
that the obedient person shall speak of victory. 


The virtue of gratitude has as its object the recompense, in some way, of a benefactor for some 
benefit that has been received. The benefactor, in giving us a gift to which we had no strict right, 
merits our gratitude, and in every noble heart the need to demonstrate this gratitude 
spontaneously springs forth when the occasion offers. On the other nand, the sin of ingratitude is 
a vile and ugly sin. Both gratitude and its opposite vice admit of various degrees, as St. Thomas 
states in the following summary: 

[Gratitude] has various degrees which correspond in their order to the thing reguired for 
gratitude. The first is to recognize the favor received, the second is to express one's 
appreciation and thanks, and the third is to repay the favor at a suitable pláce and time 
according to one's means. And since the last in the order of generation is first in the order 
of destruction, it follows that the first degree of ingratitude is to fail to repay a favor, the 
second is to dechne to notice and acknowledge that one has received a favor, and the 
third and supreme degree is to fail to recognize the reception of a favor, whether by 
forgetting it or in any other way. Moreover, since an affirmation implies the opposite 
negation, it follows that it belongs to the first degree of ingratitude to retům evil for good, 
to the second degree to find fault with a favor received, and to the third degree to esteem 
kindness as though it were unkindness.(7) 


The virtue of veracity inclines one always to speak the truth and to manifest extemally what one 
is intemaHy. This virtue is dosely related to simplicity, which rectifies one's intention and 
preseives one against duplicity. It is also related to fidelity, which inclines the will to fulfill what 
has been promised. 

We are not always obliged to speak the truth, but we are always obliged not to lie. When charity, 
justice, or some other virtue reguires that we should not reveal the truth, it will then be necessary 
to find some way of not revealing it (silence, mental reservation), but it is nevěr lawful directly 
and positively to telí a lie. Nor does a great good that would result from a lie make the telling of 
the lie licit. 


Affability is the sociál virtue par excellence, and one of the most exguisite manifestations of the 
true Christian spirit. It is defined as a virtue by which our words and extemal actions are directed 
to the preservation of friendly and agreeable association with others. Although it may seem at 
first glance that this virtue is nothing more than the extemal sign of friendship, there is this great 
difference between them: trne friendship proceeds from love, and among Christians it should be 
a natural result of love of neighbor; affability, on the other nand, is a kind of friendliness that 
consists in words or deeds in our relations with others, reguiring us to conduct ourselves in a 
friendly and sociable manner with all our neighbors, whether they be intimate friends or 

There are numerous acts or manifestations of the virtue of affability, and all of them arouse 
sympathy and friendliness in our neighbors. Benignity, politeness, simple praise, indulgence, 
sincere gratitude, hospitality, patience, meekness, and refinement in words and deeds exert a 
kind of attraction difficult to resist. This precious virtue is of extreme importance, not only in 
one's association with friends, neighbors, and strangers, but in a speciál way within the circle of 
one's own family, where it is often most neglected. 


This virtue inclines us, in speciál circumstances, to depart from the letter of the law in order to 
observe better its spirit. The very weakness of a law lies in the fact that it looks to the 
preservation of the common good in a generál way and cannot apply to every particular čase. 
Legislators usually look to what commonly happens when they are framing laws, and yet they 
realize that there can be and usually will be exceptions. What is of great importance in this 
matter of the application and interpretation of laws is the preservation of the spirit of the law by 
understanding the motive and circumstances that made the law necessary. Whether it be a matter 
of interpreting the law promulgated by authority or the application of the law in a given situation, 
one should know the mind of the legislator in framing the law. 

A good rule of thumb would consist in asking what the lawmaker would decide in circumstances 
that make the observance of the law onerous, or when there is a conflict of several laws. The 
virtuous person will always desire to do what is in accordance with right reason, charity, and the 
common good. Such persons will understand that no law binds anyone in circumstances that 
make observance of the law impossible. Superiors of all kinds should always remember that we 
do not live according to laws, but according to the Spirit. If superiors sincerely endeavor to listen 
to the Spirit, they will know when to make prudent adjustments and adaptations or even dispense 
entirely from a particular law. 

The Giftof Piety 

The gift of piety is a supernatural hábit infused with sanctifying grace, which arouses in the will, 
through the motion of the Holý Spirit, a filial love for G od as Father, and a sentiment of 
universal love for all men and women as our brothers and sisters and as children of the samé 
heavenly Father. The virtue of piety is an affective gift, and therefore it is radicated in the will in 
union with the other infused virtues also localized in the will. What is formal and proper in the 
gift of piety and distinguishes it from the virtue of religion, which venerates God as Creator or as 
the First Principle of every thing that exists, is that it considers God as a Father who has 
engendered us in the supernatural life, giving us a physical and formal participation in his divine 
nature. In this sense, God is truly our Father, and the worship we give him as Father through the 
gift of piety is nobler and more excellent than that which we give him by the virtue of religion. 

The principál secondary effect of the gift of piety is the sentiment of universal brotherhood with 
all others. St. Thomas expressly states that, just as through the virtue of piety we offer worship 
and veneration not only to our own parents but also to all blood relatives so far as they are 
related to the parents, so also the gift of piety is not restricted to the love and veneration of God, 
but extends to all so far as they are related to God. 

The gift of piety perfects to a heroic degree the matter that falls under the virtue of justice and 

ťhe other virtues related to justice, especially those of religion and piety. What a great difference 
there is, for example, in the worship of God only under the impulse of the virtue of religion, 
which presents God to us as Creator and sovereign Lord, from the samé worship under the 
movement of the gift of piety, which enables us to see God as a most loving Father! And as 
regards one's association with others, how much more exguisite is the affection we show to our 
neighbors when we realize that they are our brothers and sisters, children of the samé heavenly 

Even as regards materiál things, the gift of piety can change one's outlook completely. For those 
who are governed by the gift of piety, the world and all creation are considered as the house of 
the Father, and everything in the universe becomes a testimony of his infinite goodness. Such 
persons are able to discover the religious meaning hidden in all things. 

The following are the principál effects produced in the soul by the actuation of the gift of piety: 

1. It places in the soul a trulyfilial love for our heavenly Father. This is the primary and 
fundamental effect of the gift of piety. The soul understands perfectly and experiences 
with ineffable sweetness the words of St. Paul: "Y ou did not receive a spirit of slavery 
leading you back into fear, but a spirit of adoption through which we cry out, 'Abba! 1 
(that is, 'Father'). The Spirit himself gives witness with our spirit that we are children of 
God" (Rom. 8:15-16). 

2. It enables us to adore the ineffable mystery ofthe divine paternity within the Trinity. In 
its most sublime manifestations the gift of piety makes us penetrate the mystery of the 
intimate life of God by giving us a most vivid awareness of the divine paternity. of the 
Father in relation to the Word. It is now no longer a guestion merely of his spirituál 
fatherhood of us through grace, but of his divine paternity that is eternally fruitful in the 
bosom of the Trinity. In view of this etemal and ever actual generation within the Trinity, 
the soul is impelled to be silent and to love, without any other language than that of 
adoration and tears. It is an adoration of God for his own saké and without any 
consideration of the benefits the soul has received from him. 

3. Itarouses in the soul a filial confidence in the heavenly Father. Intimately penetrated 
with the sentiment of its adoptive divine filiation, the soul abandons itself calmly and 
confidently to the heavenly Father. It is not preoccupied with any care, and nothing is 
capable of disturbing its unalterable peace, even for an instant. The soul asks nothing and 
rejects nothing. It is not concerned about health or sickness, a long life or a short life, 
consolations or aridity, persecution or praise, activity or idleness. It is completely 
submissive to the will of God and seeks only to glorify God with all its powers, desiring 
that all beings should realize their adoptive divine filiation and live as true children of 
God. There is nothing rigid or complicated in their spirituál life or practices of piety that 
could paralyze the impulses of the heart. These souls run to God as a child runs to its 

4. It causes us to see in our neighbors children ofGod and brothers and sisters injesus 
Christ. This is a natural conseguence of our adoptive filiation through grace. If God is our 
Father, we are all children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ, either actually or 
potentially. Souls under the impulse of the gift of piety dedicate themselves to the works 

of mercy for the unfortunate and look upon them as trne brothers and sisters, serving 
ťhem in order to please the Father of all. They see in each of their brethren Christ, their 
brother, and they do for their neighbor what they would do for Christ. And whatever 
works they perform, even those that require heroism, seem so natural and easy to them 
that they would be greatly surprised if anyone should consider them to be heroic. In their 
amazement, they would perhaps reply: "But he is my brother!" It is this samé piety that 
caused St. Paul to be afflicted with the afflicted, to weep with those who wept, and to 
bear the weaknesses and miseries of his neighbor for the purpose of saving all (1 Cor. 

5. It moves us to love all those persons and things that are related to the Fatherhood of 
God and the Christian brotherhood. The gift of piety perfects and intensifies the soul's 
filial love for the Blessed Virgin, whom it considers as a tender Mother in whom it has 
the confidence that any child has in its mother. The soul loves the angels and the saints, 
whom it considers as brothers and sisters who are now enjoying the continual presence of 
G od in heaven; it has a tender affection for the souls in purgatory, whom it assists by 
frequent suffrages; reverence for the Pope as a Vicar of Christ on earth, visible head of 
the Church and father of all Christians. It looks upon all lawful superiors as fathers and 
mothers-and endeavors to obey them with filial joy. In regard to its country, it would 
wish to see the spirit of Christ manifested in its laws and customs. It has a deep 
veneration for Sacred Scripture and reads the revealed word of God as if it were a letter 
sent from heaven by the heavenly Father. It has a respect for all holý things, and 
especially those articles ušed as instruments in the service and worship of God. 

In addition to the generál means of disposing oneself for the activity of the gifts of the Holý 
Spirit such as recollection, prayer, and fidelity to grace, the following practices are more 
immediately related to the gift of piety. 

1. To cultivate the spirit ofadopted children ofGod. We could nevěr insist too much on 
the necessity of cultivating the spirit of filial trust and abandonment to our heavenly 
Father. God is our Creator and will be our Judge at the moment of death, but he is always 
and above all our Father. 

The gift of fear arouses in us a respectful reverence for God. but this is in no way 
incompatible with the tenderness and filial confidence inspired in us by the gift of piety. 
We should constantly beg for the spiritu: adoption, and should endeavorto do all things 
for the love of God in order to please our heavenly Father. 

2. To cultivate the spirit ofuniversal kinship toward all humanity. This is, as we háve 
seen, the principál secondary effect of the gift of piety. We should strive ever to increase 
the capacity of our love so that we may embrace the whole world with the arms of love. 
We are all children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ. With what persuasive 
insistence St. Paul repeated this truth to the early Christians: "There does not exist among 
you Jew or Greek, slavě or freeman, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus" 

(Gal. .3:28). If we would do as much as we could to treat our neighbors as trne brothers 
and sisters in God, we would undoubtedly attract to ourselves his merciful glance, which 
is delighted in nothing so much as in seeing us united in his divine Son. Christ himself 
desired that the world should know that we are his disciples by the love we háve for each 


3. To consider all things, even materiál things, as pertaining to the house ofGod. What a 
profoundly religious sense is discovered in all things by those souls that are mled by the 
gift of piety! St. Francis of Assisi is an example of those souls who saw and judged all 
things in this visible world as belonging in some way to the heavenly Father. 

Although many souls do not attain the exguisite delicacy of the spirit of piety as 
manifested in these souls, how differently they could evaluate created things if they 
would strive to discover the religious meaning hidden - deep within them. The created 
universe is truly the house of the Father, and all things in it belong to him. If one could 
live in this world with this religious sense and appreciation of created things, the things 
themselves as vestiges of God could lead the soul to greater union with God. 

4. To cultivate the spirit ofcomplete abandonment to God. We will not attain this spirit 
perfectly until the gift of piety is intensely actuated in us, but we should try to do what we 
can to cultivate total abandonment to God. We should strive to remain indifferent in 
regard to the shortness or the length of our life, consolation or dryness in our spirituál 
life, and the many other guestions that could cause us concern or anxiety . Our basic 
attitude should be that of complete filial abandonment to the divine will of our heavenly 
Father. Since we know for certain that he loves us as a father and that he cares for us even 
in our daily needs, it should not be too difficult for us to do the best we can in our daily 
life and to leave in his hands those things that are beyond our power. 

Temper ance 

The word temperance can be employed to signify either the moderation that reason imposes on 
every human act of passion, in which čase it is not a speciál virtue but a generál condition that 
should characterize all the moral virtues, or a speciál virtue among the moral virtues. As a moral 
virtue, temperance is a supernatural hábit that moderates the inclination to sense pleasures and 
keeps them within the limits of reason illumined by faith. 

We refer to temperance as a supernatural hábit in order to distinguish it from the natural or 
acguired virtue of temperance. The proper function of temperance is to refrain or control the 
movements of the concupiscible appetite in which it resides, as distinct from the virtue of 
fortitude, which controls the irascible appetite. Although temperance should moderate all the 
sense pleasures to which the concupiscible appetite is drawn, it refers in a speciál way to the 
pleasures of taste and touch, because they provide the most intense sense delectation and are, 
therefore, most likely to draw the appetite beyond the rule of reason. That is why the speciál 
virtue of temperance is reguired. 

Natural or acguired temperance is regulated simply by the light of natural reason, and therefore 
contains or restricts the functions of the pleasure emotions within rational or purely human 
limits; supernatural or infused temperance extends much further because it adds to simple reason 
the light of faith, which imposes superior and more delicate demands. 

The virtue of temperance is one of the most necessary virtues in the spirituál life of the 

individual. God has placed strong pleasure in the natural operations that are necessary for the 
conservation of the individual and the species. This is the reason for our strong inclination to the 
pleasures of taste and the sex function, which háve a noble purpose intended by God as the 
Author of nature. But it is easy to go beyond the limits of reason and enter the area of the illicit 
and sinful. The infused virtue of temperance moderates and restrains those natural appetites. 

The instincts, the functions, and the pleasures involved in the preservation of the individual or 
the species are good in themselves and háve a noble purpose. Conseguently, it is not a guestion 
of annihilating or completely suppressing these instincts, but of regulating their use according to 
the rule of reason, the light of faith, and one's particularvocation and circumstances of life. The 
infused virtue of temperance enables the individual to use these functions and enjoy their 
concomitant pleasures for an honest and supernatural end. 

There are two integrál parts assigned to the virtue of temperance: a sense of shame and a sense of 
honor. The sense of shame is not a virtue in the strict sense of the word, but a praiseworthy 
emotion or feeling that causes us to fear the disgrace and confusion or embarrassment connected 
with a base action. It is an emotion because it is usually accompanied by a change in the body, 
such as blushing; it is praiseworthy because the fear, regulated by reason, arouses an aversion to 
anything that is base and degrading. It should be noted that we are more ashamed of being 
embarrassed before wise and virtuous persons -- by reason of the rectitude of their judgment and 
the worth of their esteem -- than before those who háve little education or virtue. Above all, we 
háve a feeling of shame and a fear of embarrassment before our friends and the members of our 
own family, who know us better and with whom we háve to live; with strangers the sense of 
shame is much weaker. 

The sense of honor signifies a certain love or appreciation for the spirituál beauty and dignity 
connected with the practice of temperance. It is properly connected with the virtue of temperance 
because this virtue possesses a certain degree of spirituál beauty, and the beautiful is opposed to 
the base and ugly. Therefore a sense of honor pertains to the virtue that helps us to avoid base 
and ugly actions. The importance of cultivating a sense of honor can hardly be overemphasized, 
since sense pleasures readily lead to excess. 

One should not, however, lose sight of the fact that the sense of honor and the sense of shame 
would cease to be virtuous if they were understood to forbid the lawful and reasonable use of the 
sex instinct. Their purpose as elements or parts of the virtue of temperance is to moderate the 
enjoyment of lawful sense pleasures and thus enable the individual to enjoy them in a manner in 
keeping with human and Christian dignity. 

Since the virtue of temperance has for its purpose the moderation of the inclination to the 
pleasures proceeding from taste and touch, its species can be divided into two groups: those that 
refer to the sense of taste (abstinence and sobriety), and those that refer to the sense of touch 
(chastity, purity, virginity, and continence). 


This virtue inclines one to the moderate consumption of nourishment according to the dictates of 
reason enlightened by faith. As an infused supernatural .virtue, abstinence is very different from 
the acguired virtue of the samé name. The latter is governed by the light of natural reason alone, 

and uses nourishment in the degree and measure required by the needs or health of the body. But 
ťhe infused virtue of abstinence likewise takés into account one's needs in the supernatural order, 
as when one observes a penitential fast. 


In generál, sobriety signifies moderation or temperance in any matter, but in the strict sense it is 
a speciál virtue that has for its object the moderation of the use of intoxicating drinks in 
accordance with reason enlightened by faith. The use of nonintoxicating drinks is regulated by 
the virtue of abstinence; its excess constitutes gluttony. Intoxicating drinks are the object of a 
speciál virtue because of the rapidity with which they may cause the loss of self-control and the 
ease with which one can form the hábit of drinking to excess. When moderated by the virtue of 
sobriety, however, the use of intoxicating beverages is not only lawful but may also be an act of 
virtue in given circumstances. The use of intoxicating drinks is not evil in itself, as some háve 
tried to maintain, but it may become evil by reason of some speciál circumstance. 


This is the virtue that moderates the desire for venereal pleasures according to the necessities of 
life as judged by right reason illumined by faith. The use and enjoyment of the sexual function in 
accordance with the married statě are both lawful and virtuous, but even those persons for whom 
this action is lawful háve an obligation to observe conjugal chastity. For those who are not 
married there is a strict prohibition against the use and enjoyment of the sexual powers; this is 
restricted to the married statě. 


Purity moderates the extemal acts that of their nature lead to, and prepare for, sexual union. 
Whereas chastity is concerned with the sexual act itself, purity is directed to certain 
circumstances related to chastity. Purity, like all the parts of temperance, must be judged 
according to the rights and duties of one's statě in life according to the dictates of right reason 
illumined by faith. In other wonds, the practice of purity for married persons will be different 
from the purity required of the unmarried. 


As a speciál virtue, distinct from and more perfect than chastity, virginity consists in the resolute 
will to preserve one's .integrity of body by abstaining perpetually from all voluntary venereal 
pleasure. Perfect virginity voluntarily preserved for a supernatural motive is not only lawful but 
in itself is more excellent than matrimony. This is exemplified in the lives of Jesus and Mary, 
who are models of sanctity. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude from the superiority of 
the statě of virginity to the superiority of individuals who háve vowed virginity, because spirituál 
excellence is measured in terms of charity, not virginity. 


This virtue strengthens the will in order to resist the disordered vehemence of the passions. It 
prevents evil by a disposition of the will that restrains the impetus of passion. Perfect chastity 
controls the passions to such an extent that they do not produce any vehement movements 

contrary to reason; continence, on the oťher hand, resists the urge of passion when it arises, and 
ťhus a continent person may be subject to violent movements of passion. The proper materiál of 
the virtue of continence is the pleasures of the sense of touch, especially those connected with 
sex, although in a more generál and less proper sense it can refer to other movements of passion. 


The virtue of meekness has as its object the moderation of anger in accordance with right reason. 
Although it is listed as a potential part of the virtue of temperance, meekness resides in the 
irascible appetite because it is concemed with restraining anger. As a passion, anger in itself is 
neither good nor evil, and therefore there is such a thing as just anger. The virtue of meekness is, 
therefore, not a purely negative hábit; its purpose is to enable an individual to use anger 
according to the rule of right reason. 

Moreover, it would be a caricature of virtue to confuse meekness with timidity or cowardice. The 
meek do not lose the virtue when they give expression to just anger, any more than Jesus ceased 
to be meek when in anger he drove the merchants from the temple. 

Indeed, if we were to fail to utilize anger on the occasions that demand it, we could be guilty of a 
sin against justice or charity -virtues more excellent than meekness. But since it is easy to be 
mistaken in judging the just motives of anger, we must always be vigilant lest we be overtaken 
by a sudden movement of passion that would carry us beyond the limits of justice and charity. In 
čase of doubt it is always better to incline to the side of meekness than to the danger of excessive 


Clemency inclines a person in authority to mitigate a punishment for a fault so far as right reason 
allows. It proceeds from a certain gentleness of soul that causes one to abhor anything that would 
cause sorrow or pain to another. Clemency does not refer to a complete and total pardon but to a 
mitigation of the punishment. It should not be exercised for unworthy motives, such as respect of 
persons or the desire to be liked, but it should be motivated by an indulgence and kindness that 
will not compromise the demands of justice. 


This is one of the fundamental virtues in the spirituál life. It is a virtue derived from temperance, 
and it enables us to restrain the inordinate desire for our own excellence, giving us a true 
evaluation of our smallness and misery before God. Humility derives from temperance because 
its proper function is to moderate the desire for our own greatness, and all moderation belongs to 
the virtue of temperance. Based as it is on self-knowledge,, true humility enables us to see 
ourselves as we are in the eyes of God, not exaggerating our good qualities and not denying the 
gifts we háve received from God. This virtue, therefore, implies our subjection to God, and for 
that reason St. Augustine attributes the gift of fear to the perfection of the virtue of humility. 

How is it possible for persons who háve received great gifts from God to recognize these gifts 
and at the samé time be aware of their littleness and misery before God? St. Thomas answers this 
question by pointing out that we may consider two things in ourselves, námely, that which we 
háve of God and that which we háve of ourselves. Whatever pertains to defect and imperfection 

is of ourselves; whatever pertains to man's goodness and perfection is from God. 

It is, therefore, the comparison with the infinite perfections of God that constitutes the ultimate 
basis and foundation of humility. For that reason this virtue is dosely related to the theological 
virtues and possesses a certain aspect of reverence for God, which relates it to the virtue of 
religion. In the light of this basic principle, one can understand the apparently exaggerated 
humility of the saints and the incomparable humility of Christ. As they grew in perfection, the 
saints received from God ever-increasing knowledge of his infinite perfections, and as a result of 
that knowledge they perceived with ever greater clarity the infinite abyss between the grandeur 
of God and their own littleness and weakness. Mary, the greatest of all Goďs creatures, was also 
the humblest. 

Humility is based on truth and justice. The truth gives us a knowledge of ourselves, with the 
recognition that whatever good we háve we háve received from God; justice demands of us that 
we give God all honor and glory (1 Tim. 1:17). Truth reguires that we recognize and admire the 
natural and supematural gifts God has bestowed on us; justice demands that we glorify the giver 
of those gifts. 

Humility is not the greatest of all the virtues. It is surpassed by the theological virtues, the 
intellectual virtues, and by justice. But humility is a fundamental virtue in the spirituál life, 
because it removes the obstacles to the reception of grace. Scripture expressly states that God 
resists the proud and gives his grace to the humble (James 4:6). Hence humility and faith are the 
two basic virtues; they constitute the foundation of the entire supematural structure. 

Various classifications of the degrees of humility háve been pro posed by saints and spirituál 
writers, but they all agree on the basic element. A familiarity with the various degrees of 
humility is of great help in examining oneself in regard to the principál intemal and extemal 
manifestations of this virtue. St. Bernard simplifies the degrees of humility by reducing them to 
three basic grades: (1) sufficient humility (to subject oneself to superiors and not to prefer oneself 
to one's egual); (2) abundant humility (to subject oneself to one's eguals and not to prefer oneself 
to one's inferiors); (3) superabundant humility (to subject oneself to one's inferiors). 

The three degrees of humility described by St. Ignatius Loyola are not restricted to the virtue of 
humility, but refer to the selfabnegation reguired in the Christian life. The following are the three 
degrees according to St. Ignatius: (1) necessary humility (the humility necessary for salvation), 
námely, that in all things we obey the law of God, and nevěr do anything that would involve the 
commission of a mortal sin; (2) perfect humility, that is, we would not care to háve riches rather 
than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than a short life, so long as we can 
serve God so faithfully that we would not commit a deliberate venial sin for all the world; (3) 
most perfect humility, that is, in imitation of Christ, we prefer to be poor with Christ; to suffer 
opprobrium with Christ, and to be considered a fool with Christ, rather than to be wealthy or 
honored or considered wise by the world. 


Modesty is a virtue by which we observe proper decorum in our gestures and bodily movements, 
in our posture, and in the matter of dress. This virtue calls for a sense of dignity on the part of the 
individual and those who are in the company of that person. Ordinarily, a person is judged by 

externals, and for that reason any uncontrolled movements are interpreted as signs of an 
inordinate and unruly interior. With good reason does St. Augustine recommend in his Rule that 
individuals should be especially careful to observe external modesty of deportment lest they 
scandalize others. 

Modesty of dress reguires conformity to the customs of the persons with whom one lives. One 
may violate the reguirements of modesty of dress because of vanity, sensuality, or excessive 
interest in one's apparel. One can also go to the other extréme by being negligent, for example, if 
one were to be unreasonably negligent in dressing according to one's statě in life, or were to seek 
attention by a deliberate flaunting of good manners. 


This speciál virtue regulates one's recreation and diversions according to the rule of reason. In 
discussing this virtue, St. Thomas begins by insisting upon the necessity of spirituál and bodily 
relaxations in order to restore the energies and powers that háve been exhausted by labor. He 
points out, however, that three defects in recreation must be avoided: to recreate by means of 
harmful or sinful things, to lose all sense of propriety or seriousness in the midst of recreation, or 
to do anything that would be inordinate in regard to persons, pláce, time, or other 

Moderation in pleasure is especially difficult for the young and for all who guickly respond to 
sensate pleasure, but it is also a problém for people of all ages and conditions. Given our 
propensity for satisfaction on the sense level, it is understandable that one may easily go to 
excess in the pleasures of taste and touch. Moreover, the temptations of youth to sins against 
temperance will not necessarily be the samé type of temptations that assail the older person, who 
may be more inclined to excess in food or drink than in sexual matters. For that reason one 
should not eguate temperance with control of the sexual instinct; it applies as well to the 
pleasures of the palatě. 

The following suggestions are given with a view toward fostering the virtuous and moderate 
enjoyment of sensate pleasure in accordance with the demands of temperance: 

1. Avoid occasions that stimulate the desire for sensate pleasure. Here the dictum "know 
thyself" is applicable since individuals vary in their sensitivity to stimuli. Moreover, one's 
statě of life must be taken into consideration. Many things that are lawful for married 
adults, for example, are not so for youth or for priests and religious. Those who know 
from experience where their weakness lies will also k-ow to what extent they must avoid 
or protéct themselves against particular persons, places, or things. 

2. Practice voluntary self-denial. One should nevěr eat or drink to satiety but should 
always také less than one's capacity. The sensate appetites can become habituated to 
moderation just as surely as they can become accustomed to excess. 

3. Keep a vigilant control over the sense ofsight, the imagination, and memory. Many 
temptations arise from within the individual because of the fantasies of the imagination, 
which arouse desire, or because of the memory of past pleasures. In this connection, 
control of the sense of sight must apply not only to objects or persons looked at, but also 
to books, movies, magazines, and television. 

4. Occupy oneselfwith safe and beneficial activities. Hence tne great benefit of athletics 
and exercise of all kinds, of having a hobby, of fidelity to the duty of ťhe moment. 
Closely related to this is the practice of associating with persons of virtue and knowing 
how to enjoy wholesome recreation and relaxation. 

5. Cultivate a sense of Christian dignity and an awareness ofthe obligation to witness to 
Christ. This is one of the strongest positive motivations for a temperate life. If we 
become more and more conscious of the Trinity dwelling in our souls through grace, we 
shall more likéry live in accordance with our Christian vocation. If we are mindful of our 
apostolic duty to bear witness to Christ in our lives, we shall more readily refrain from all 
excess in sensate pleasure, as he did. 


The gift of fear of the Lord, as we háve seen, corresponds primarily to the theological virtue of 
hope, which it perfects by motivating the individual to avoid sin out of reverential fear of God. 
But it pertains secondarily to the virtue of temperance because that samé reverential fear prompts 
one to avoid those sensate excesses to which we are strongly inclined. Therefore, the gift of fear 
controls the concupiscible appetite. This, of course, is also the object of temperance and its 
related virtues-to moderate the use and enjoyment of sensate pleasure. But to reach the perfection 
of the Christian life and the most intimate possible union with God, it is necessary that the 
concupiscible appetite be not only controlled but also purified. Servile fear or the fear of 
punishment may serve freguently to prevent one from yielding to the desire for sensate pleasure, 
but the gift of fear, which is filial fear born of love and reverence, seeks the purity reguired for 
union with God. The gift of fear of the Lord, therefore, is of great help in the active purgation of 
the sense appetite and prepares the way for the passive purgation of the senses. 

The following are the effects of the gift of fear so far as it relates to temperance: 

1. A vivid awareness ofthe sanctity and purity ofGod. This is a logical conseguence of 
the reverential fear of God, accompanied by the filial fear based on love. It culminates in 
the love of God for himself and the desire to give him glory in every way possible. 

2. A loss ofinterest in the pleasure afforded by creature attachments. The soul is an adult 
in Christ and has put away the things of a child as well as childish attachment to those 
things that cater to the body. The soul has lost its taste for the delights of this world and 
can find satisfaction and joy only in the things related to God. 

3. A lofty degree ofhumility. Recognizing as it does the exalted majesty of God, the soul 
cannot help prostrating itself before him with a deep sense of its nothingness. As Christ 
said to St. Catherine of Siena: "Catherine, you are she who is not; I am he who is"; or the 
concept of the All and the nothing (Todo y nadá) so dear to St. John of the Cross. 

4. A profound appreciation for the beauty ofthe spirituál life of grace. As temperance is a 
virtue that provides the proper proportion in human life so that the beauty of virtue may 
shine forth, so the gift that perfects temperance will logically manifest in an even higher 
degree the splendor of the life of grace. Hence the virtue of purity has been called the 

"angelic" virtue because in its perfection it enables one to live as if one were no longer in 
ťhe body but dwelt on the higher level of the spirituál and divine. 

Although we cannot directly merit or cause the actuation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit, we can 
make use of certain means to dispose ourselves for the Holý Spirit to work in us when he so 

1. Cultivate a love ofsolitude, recollection, and thefaithful practice ofmental prayer. 
This is always necessary in the Christian life, but it is especially helpful in relation to the 
perfection of temperance and the actuation of the gift that perfects temperance. Simply 
growing in the love of God through mental prayer and freguently being alone with him 
can wean us from the attachment to sense satisfactions. 

2. Be vigilant in keeping custody ofthe senses and making acts oflove ofGod. If we keep 
a guard over the senses, sense objects cannot arouse desire within us. And if we turn to 
God freguently during the day with acts of love, our love will be nourished and grow 
strong, at the samé time weakening the desire for anything less than God. 

3. Do díl things for the salvation ofsoulsand the glory of G od . The works ofthe 
apoštoláte are the crowning of perfect charity if doně for the glory of God, for we thereby 
bring not only ourselves to God, but others as well. When doně for such a lofty motive, 
the service to others out of love will help us rise above the life of the senses and go a long 
way in purging our love of any taint of selfishness. 


The word fortitude can be understood in two principál senses. The first sense signifies in generál 
a certain firmness of spirit and vigor of character, generál conditions that must accompany all 
virtues if they are to be truly such. In the second sense it designates a speciál supernatural virtue, 
infused with sanctifying grace to strengthen the irascible appetite and the will so that they will 
not abandon the pursuit of the arduous or difficult good even when faced with grave danger to 
bodily health and life. This virtue has as its proper subject the irascible appetite because it is 
especially concemed with the control of fear and daring. However, it is necessary to mention the 
will because this faculty must intervene if fortitude is to be a true virtue, although the will itself 
is not the proper faculty in which fortitude resides. As regards the movements of fear and daring, 
fortitude will prevent unreasonable fear in the face of an evil that threatens, and will restrain the 
individual from unreasonably attacking an impending evil. Since the greatest natural evil is the 
loss of one's life, the virtue of fortitude is principally concemed with the fear of death. 

The two acts, by which fortitude manifests itself in the extemal order are to attack and to endure. 
There will be occasions in which the individual is called upon to defend the good by means of 
attack, and there will be times in which the individual cannot attack but must resist by not 

Of the two acts of fortitude, the principál and more difficult is to resist or to endure. Contrary to 
common opinion, it is more painful and more heroic to resist an enemy or to suffer an evil than 
to attack. Psychologically it is easier to attack an evil, especially when the passion of anger has 

been aroused. But to suffer sickness or persecution or death with a tranquil and sturdy spirit 
requires the fortitude of a hero. For that reason the Greek drama portrayed the hero of tlie tragédy 
as a man who knew how to accept death courageously, and Christians háve always considered 
the martyrs as the outstanding examples of Christian fortitude. 

In its double activity of attacking and resisting evil, fortitude plays an important role in the 
spirituál life. There are countless obstacles and difficulties to be overcome along the road leading 
to perfection. To succeed in reaching the goal, we must resolutely begin a journey to perfection, 
we must not be surprised at the presence of the enemy, we must háve courage to attack and 
conquer when prudence dictates, and we must háve the constancy and perseverance to carry on 
without ever surrendering to the enemy. And even if we háve made great progress in the spirituál 
life and háve achieved a moral victory over the enemy, fortitude will still be necessary in order to 
endure the trials and purgations sent by God to test and strengthen and purify the spirit. 

The virtue of fortitude has no subjective parts or species because it deals with a very particular 
matter that cannot be further subdivided. There are, however, integrál and potential parts of 
fortitude. They refer to the samé virtues materially but are differentiated by the fact that the 
integrál parts of fortitude refer to the dangers of death, and the potential parts or annexed virtues 
refer to lesser danqers.Q) 


This virtue inclines one to perform some great act worthy of honor. It is therefore incompatible 
with mediocrity, and in this sense it is a most praiseworthy virtue. 

The virtue of magnanimity presupposes a noble and lofty soul. It is often described as greatness 
of soul or nobility of character. Magnanimous persons are a superior type of person. They are 
nevěr envious, they are not rivals of others, and they do not feel humiliated or embarrassed by 
the good of others. They are calm and leisurely in their actions; they do not give themselves to 
many activities, but only to those of greater importance. 

They are truthful, sincere, somewhat reserved in speech, and a loyal friend. They nevěr lie, but 
they speak their mind without being concerned about the opinion of others. They are open and 
frank, and nevěr imprudent or hypocritical. They are objective in their friendships, and yet do not 
close their eyes to the defects of their friends. They are nevěr excessive in their admiration of 
other people, nor attached to anything. They look primarily to virtue and to that which is noble. 

The petty affections or disagreements that cause so many difficulties in sociál life mean nothing 
to them. If they are injured by others, they quickly forget and forgive. They are not overjoyed at 
the praise and applause of others, nor are they saddened at the criticism they may receive from 
others. They do not complain about the things they lack, but they leam to do without. This virtue 
presupposes a high degree of perfection in the other virtues. 


The virtue of patience enables one to bear physical and moral sufferings without sadness of spirit 
or dejection of heart. It is one of the most necessary virtues in the Christian life because the trials 
and sufferings we must inevitably suffer in this life require the assistance of some virtue to keep 
us strong and firm lest we yield to discouragement and sorrow. Many souls lose the merit of their 

trials and sufferings because they fail to exercise the virtue of patience. Indeed, they suffer even 
more than they would háve because of their lack of conformity to the will of God. 

The principál motives for the practice of Christian patience are the following: 

1. Conformity with the loving will of God, who knows better than we the things that are 
good for us and therefore sometimes sends us suffering and tribulation. 

2. The recollection of the suffering of Jesus and Mary, incomparable models of patience, 
and the sincere desire to imitate them. 

3. The necessity of making reparation for our sins by the voluntary and virtuous 
acceptance of suffering in atonement for our sins. 

4. The necessity of cooperating with Christ in the application of the fruits of redemption, 
bearing our sufferings in union with his in order to make up what is wanting to his 
passion(cf. Col. 1:24). 

5. The prospect of an eternity of happiness that awaits us if we know how to suffer in 
patience. The suffering passes, but the fruit of having sanctified our suffering will nevěr 

As with the virtue of humility, so also with patience do we distinguish various grades or degrees 
that give some indication of the perfection of the virtue in individual Christians. There are five 
fundamental degrees of patience: 

1. Resignation without complaint or impatience to the crosses God sends us or permits to 
come to us. 

2. Peace and serenity in the face of affliction, without any of the sadness or melancholy 
that sometimes accompany mere resignation. 

3. Acceptance of one's cross for the love of God. 

4. Complete and total joy, which leads one to give thanks to God for being associated 
with him in the mystery of the Cross. 

5. The foliy of the Cross, which prefers suffering to pleasure and places all one's delight 
in external or intemal suffering by which one is configured with Christ. 


The virtue of perseverance inclines one to persist in the practice of the good in špite of the 
difficulties involved. To remain unmoved and resolute in the practice of virtue from day to day 
reguires a fortitude of spirit that is provided by this virtue. All the virtues need the help of 
perseverance, because without it no virtue could be preserved and practiced over a long period of 
time, nor would any virtue ultimately attain its perfection. Although every virtue is by definition 
a hábit difficult to remove and is, therefore, of itself a stable guality, the speciál difficulty arising 
from a lifelong fidelity in the practice of any given virtue reguires the speciál virtue of 
perseverance. Thus we see how one virtue comes to the aid of another. 

However, the virtue of perseverance, even when perfected, requires a speciál assistance of grace 
called the grace of perseverance. (lO) St. Thomas briefly summarizes the difference between this 
virtue and the grace required for its exercise: 

Perseverance has a double meaning. First it denotes the hábit of perseverance, which is a 
virtue. And as a virtue, it requires the gift of habitual grace as do the other infused 
virtues. Secondly, it may be understood as signifying the act of perseverance that endures 
until death, and in this sense it requires not only habitual grace but also the gratuitous 
help of God, which sustains man in good until the end of life. (ll) 

The reason for the necessity of a speciál grace from God to insure our finál perseverance is that 
sanctifying or habitual grace does not change our free will, in the sense that grace alone is a 
guarantee that the just person will nevěr sin. However just and however perfect we may be, we 
are always able to sin, and for that reason we need, over and above the infused virtue of 
perseverance, the speciál grace of finál perseverance that the Council of Trent calls "that great 


Constancy is dosely related to the virtue of perseverance but is distinguished from the latter by 
reason of a speciál difficulty to be overcome. The essential notě of perseverance is that it gives 
firmness and strength of soul in the face of the difficulty connected with the prolongation of a 
virtuous life. Constancy strengthens the soul against the difficulties that proceed from any other 
extemal obstacle, such as the influence of bad example or speciál temptations from without. 

The principál means of growth in the virtue of fortitude and in those virtues related to it are the 

1. Constantly to beg it ofGod, for although it is true that this is a generál means that 
applies to all the virtues, since every supernatural gift comes from God (James 1:17), 
when it is a question of the virtue of fortitude we need the speciál assistance of God, due 
to the laxity and weakness of our human nature, wounded by sin. Without the help of 
God, we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with his help we can do all things (Phil. 4:13). 
For that reason Scripture repeatedly insists on the necessity of asking help from God, 
who is our strength. 

2. To foresee the difficulties we shall encounter on the path of virtue. St. Thomas 
recommends this practice to all Christians, and especially to those who háve notyet 
acquired the hábit of working with fortitude. In this way one gradually overcomes one's 
fear, and when difficulties actually arise, one will overcome them much more easily 
because one has anticipated them. 

3. To accept with a generous spirit the annoyances ofdaily life. Every vocation in life is 
accompanied by its own particular crosses and difficulties, even if they be merely the 
monotony and boredom of one's daily activities. If we do not learn to accept the 
inevitable inconveniences and small trials of daily life, such as cold and heat, pain and 
discomfort, small illnesses and aches, contradictions and ingratitude, we shall nevěr make 
any progress in cultivating the Christian virtue of fortitude. 

4. To meditate frequently on the passion and death ofChrist. There is nothing that so 
animates and comforts delicate souls as the contemplation of the heroism of Christ. He 
was a man of sorrows and was acquainted with infirmities (Isa. 53:3), and he left us an 
example of suffering so that we would follow in his footsteps. However great our 
sufferings of soul or body, we can raise our eyes to the Cmcifix, and Christ will give us 
the fortitude to bear them. It is likewise helpful to remember the profound suffering of 
Mary, of whom it is said: "Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether 
there is any suffering like my suffering" (Lam. 1:12). 

5. To intensify our love ofGod. Love is as strong as death (Song 8:6), and it does not 
yield to any obstacle in the pursuit of pleasing the beloved. That is what gave St. Paul the 
superhuman fortitude by which he overcame tribulation, anguish, persecution, hunger, 
danger, and the sword. "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who 
loved us" (Rom. 8:37). When one truly loves God, there are no longer any difficulties in 
serving him, and one's very weakness becomes the basis for ho ping in him. "My grace is 
sufficientforyou, formy poweris made perfect in weakness .... For when I am weak, 
thenl am strong" (2 Cor. 12:9-10). 

The Giftof Fortitude 

The gift of fortitude is a supematural hábit through which the Holý Spirit strengthens the soul for 
the practice of virtue, with invincible confidence of overcoming any dangers or difficulties that 
may arise. In the operation of this gift, as of the other gifts, the soul acts by a kind of instinctive 
interior impulse that proceeds directly from the Holý Spirit. And although the virtue of fortitude 
has the samé name as the gift by which it is perfected, the gift extends to all the heroic actions of 
the other virtues as well. One of the clearest marks of distinction between the virtue of fortitude 
and the gift of fortitude is the confidence one experiences in being able to overcome great 
dangers and difficulties. It is true that the virtue of fortitude gives strength to the soul for 
overcoming obstacles, but the gift imparts the confidence of success. 

The gift of fortitude is absolutely necessary for the perfection of the infused virtues, and 
sometimes it is required for perseverance in the statě of grace. As to the perfection of the other 
virtues by the gift of fortitude, we should recall that a virtue is called perfect when its act springs 
from the soul with energy, promptness, and perseverance. The continued perfection in any virtue 
is manifestly supematural, and it can be explained only by the supematural mode of operation of 
the gift of fortitude. Thus the perfection of any of the virtues will at some time or other require 
the operation of the gift of fortitude. 

As regards the necessity of the gift of fortitude. for perseverance in the statě of grace, there are 
occasions in the lives of most Christians when they are confronted, suddenly and inexorably, 
with the decision either to practice virtue in a given instance or to commit a mortal sin. If the 
virtue of fortitude is not sufficiently perfect, it will be necessary that the gift of fortitude come 
into play so that the individual will háve the supematural strength to perform the act of virtue. 
Moreover, by the very fact that some temptations are sudden and unexpected, while the operation 
of the virtues of prudence and fortitude is usually slow and discursive, one will need the prompt 
intervention of the gifts of counsel and fortitude. It is precisely on this point that St. Thomas 

bases his teaching on the necessity of the gifts of ťhe Holý Spirit for etemal salvation. 

1. It gives the soul relentless vigor in the practice ofvirtue. This is an inevitable result of 
ťhe supematural mode by which the virtue of fortitude operates when under the influence, 
of, the gift of fortitude. At such times the soul does not feel any weakness or lack of 
confidence in the practice of virtue. It may suffer from the obstacles and dangers it 
encounters, but it. proceeds against them with supematural energy in špite of all 

2. It overcomes all lukewarmness in the service ofGod. This is a natural conseguence of 
ťhe superhuman energy imparted to the soul by the gift of fortitude. Lukewarmness 
retards many persons on the way to perfection. It is due almost always to a lack of vigor 
and fortitude in the practice of virtue. Lukewarm souls consider that it is too much of an 
effort to háve to conguer themselves in so many things and to maintain their spirit from 
one day to another in the monotonous fulfillment of the details of their daily obligations. 
The majority of such souls give in to weariness and renounce the battle, with the result 
that henceforth they live a purely mechanical life of routine, if indeed they do not turn 
their back completely on ťhe life of virtue and abandon the pursuit of perfection. Only the 
gift of fortitude, which strengthens the power of the soul in a supematural way, is an 
efficacious remedy against lukewarmness in the service of God. 

3. It makes the soul intrepid and valiant in every type ofdanger or against every kind of 
enemy. This is another of the great effects of the gift of fortitude and is particularly 
marked in the lives of the saints. The aposťles themselves, gentle and meek by nature, and 
even cowards when abandoned by their Master on the eve of Good Friday, presented 
themselves once more to the world on Pentecost Sunday with a superhuman fortitude and 
courage. They were then afraid of no one, for they realized that it was necessary to obey 
God rather than man (cf. Acts 5:29). They confessed the teachings of Christ and sealed 
their apoštoláte with their blood. All of this was the supematural effect of the gift of 
fortitude, which the apostles received in all its plenitude on the first feast of Pentecost. In 
addition to the examples of the apostles, we háve countless examples of saints who háve 
been raised up by God throughout the centuries to give testimony to his doctrine of love, 
to combat the enemies of his Church, and in many instances to lay down their lives for 
Christ. From the earliest days of the Church and the ages of persecution to our own 
century, there háve been men and women and even children who háve manifested in their 
lives the power and the valor that are imparted to holý souls by the gift of fortitude. 

4. It enables souls to suffer with patience andjoy. Although resignation is a praiseworthy 
virtue, it is nevertheless imperfect and the saints do not manifest it in their lives once 
they háve reached the perfection of virtue. We mean by this that, in a strict sense, the 
saints did not resign themselves to suffering; rather, they sought it voluntarily. Sometimes 
this "foliy of the Cross" was manifested in extraordinary and terrifying acts of penance. 
At other times it found expression in the heroic patience with which holý souls endured 
the greatest conceivable sickness and pain, their faces radiant with joy, as in the čase of 
St. Therese of Lisieux, who said that she had reached a point in which she could no 
longer suffer because all suffering had become sweet to her. This is the language of 
heroism that proceeds directly from the intense operation in the soul of the gift of 

5. It gives the soul the quality ofheroism in great things and in small things. No greater 
fortitude is required to suffer the martyťs death at one stroke than to endure without 
failing the prolonged martyrdom of the heroic practice of virtue and the fulfillment of 
one's daily duties to the smallest detail. This principle is valid for every statě of life, and 
it is a point that should be preached more frequently to the faithful. Given the weakness 
and instability of human nature, it is evident that for most people the most difficult test of 
fortitude consists in faithful perseverance in the performance of even the smallest duties 
of one's statě in life. 

In addition to the generál means for the increase and strengthening of the gifts (prayer, 
recollection, fidelity to grace), the following are more immediately concerned with strengthening 
the gift of fortitude: 

1. To accustom ourselves to the exact fulfillment ofour duties in špite ofany repugnance. 
There are some heroic acts that surpass our powers at any given moment, but there can be 
no doubt that with the assistance of the ordinary grace that God denies to no one, we can 
all do much more than we actually do. We shall nevěr arrive at the heroism of the saints 
until the gift of fortitude operates intensely in us, but this operation is not likely to be 
effected in us by the Holý Spirit as a reward for our spirituál sloťh and voluntary 
lukewarmness. To those who do the best that they can, the assistance of God will nevěr 
be lacking. On the other nand, we cannot complain at not receiving the help of God 
through the operation of the gift of fortitude if we háve not doně all that we can. We must 
pray as if it all depended upon God, but we must strive as if it all depended upon 

2. Not to ask God to remove our cross but only that he give us the strength to carry it. 
The gift of fortitude is given to holý souls so that they will be able to bear the great 
crosses and tribulations through which they must inevitably pass in order to arrive at the 
height of sanctity . If, on experiencing any kind of suffering, or on feeling the weight of a 
cross God sends to us, we begin to complain and to ask God to také it from us, why 
should we then be surprised if the gifts of the Holý Spirit and especially the gift of 
fortitude do not operáte in us? If, on being tested in little things, God finds that we are 
weak, how can his purifying action proceed in us? We should nevěr complain about 
crosses, but we should ask the Lord that he give us the strength to bear them. Then we 
should remain tranquil and remember that God will nevěr be outdone in generosity. 

3. To practice voluntary mortification faithfully. The person who freely embraces 
suffering no longer fears it and may eventually embrace it with spirituál joy as a means of 
proving one's love. This does not mean that one should imitate the saints who performed 
heroic penitential acts, for not all souls, and not even all the saints, were called to this 
degree of mortification. Normally there are numerous opportunities in daily life and in 
the fulfillment of one's duties of statě in life for the practice of self-denial. Indeed, it is a 
paradox to attempt to perform extremely difficult acts of mortification and penance and 
then fail to bear the little crosses of daily life. The goal of mortification is to strengthen 
oneself in the face of temptation and thereby allow virtue to develop; the purpose of 
self-denial is to control one's natural inclination to excessive self-love, which greedily 
seeks its own satisfaction, and to cultivate generous gift -- love. And although difficult at 
the beginning, the practices of mortification can eventually become second nature, and at 

ťhat point one acquires the stability and fidelity that are characteristic of fortitude. 


Summa theologiae, II-II, qq. 47-9. 

Ibid., q. 58. 

Ibid., q. 84. 

For detailed information, see Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 102. 

Ibid., q. 186, aa. 7-8. 

The letter was written at Róme on March 16, 1553, and can be seen in its entirety in Obras 
de San Ignacio deLoyola (Madrid: B.A.C., 1952), pp. 833-43. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 107, a. 2. 

Ibid., q. 168, aa. 2-4. 

Ibid., q. 128. 

This doctrine was affirmed by the Council of Trent. See Denz.-Schón. 1572. 

Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 137, a. 4. 

G rades of Prayer 

We are indebted to St. Teresa of A vila for the clearest and best classification of the qrades of 
prayer. Her concept that the intensity of one's life of prayer coincides with the intensity of one's 
charity is based on solid theology and was confirmed by St. Pius X, who stated that the grades of 
prayer taught by St. Teresa represent so many grades of elevation and ascent toward Christian 

These grades are (1) vocal prayer, (2) meditation, (3) affective prayer, (4) prayer of simplicity, 
(5) infused contemplation, (6) prayer of quiet, (7) prayer of union, (8) prayer of conforming 
union, and (9) prayer of transforming union. The first four grades of prayer belong to the 
predominantly ascetical stage of the spirituál life; the remaining five grades are infused prayer 
and belong to the mystical phase of the spirituál life. 

Vocal Prayer 

Although we classify the grades of prayer under the headings of ascetical and mystical, there 
may be mystical prayer in the eariy stages of the spirituál life, and there may be a retům to 
ascetical activity on the part of souls who are well advanced in mystical ways. Hence what is 
meant by ascetical and mystical signifies that which is predominant and not that which is 
exclusive. Little remains to be said concerning vocal prayer, since much of what we háve already 

written concerning the prayer of petition applies to the first grade of prayer. 

By vocal prayer we mean any form of prayer expressed in words, whether written or spoken. 
This kind of prayer is the form ušed in public or liturgical prayer, but it is also much ušed by 
private individuals. St. Thomas gives three reasons why vocal prayer is suitable: (1) it arouses 
interior devotion; (2) it gives homage to God with our body as well as our mind and heart; and 
(3) it gives expression to the spirituál sentiments that flood the soul in prayer.{2) 

We should observe that vocal prayer is not restricted to prayer of petition (although petition 
would surely be included); it likewise includes adoration, thanksgiving, contrition, and all the 
other sentiments an individual experiences in relation to God. We want to emphasize especially 
the use of vocal prayer as a means of arousing one's devotion or of giving expression to one's 
love of God, because this leads to the higher forms of prayer: discursive meditation and affective 

It should also be noted that vocal prayer as the public liturgical prayer of the people of God gives 
greater glory to God than does private prayer and has a greater efficacy because it is the prayer of 
the Christian community . Y et, considering the one who prays, the Christian most perfect in love 
is the one who prays most perfectly. 

The two reguirements for vocal prayer are attention and devotion. What we háve said concerning 
the attention reguired for prayer of petition applies here also; we would merely add that attention 
may be actual or virtual. Actual attention is present when those who pray háve complete 
awareness of what they are doing here and now; virtual attention is that which is had at the 
beginning of prayer and extends throughout the prayer without being retracted, although there 
may be involuntary distractions. St. Teresa says: 

That prayer which does not attend to the one it is addressing and what it asks and who it 
is that asks and of whom it asks, such I do not call prayer at all, however much one may 
move the lips. For although it is true that sometimes it will be trne prayer even if one 
does not také heed of these things, it is more truly prayer on those occasions when one 

The second reguirement -- devotion -- is complementary to that of attention. By attention we 
apply our intellect to the practice of prayer; by devotion we direct our will to God. Devotion, 
therefore, involves several virtues: charity, confidence, humility, reverence, and perseverance. 
Devotion is so important for vocal prayer that it would be better to recite one Our Father 
devoutly than to say many prayers in a routine and mechanical fashion, unless it is a guestion of 
prayers that must be recited by reason of some obligation. 

Devotion should also be the measure for the duration of one's personál vocal prayers, for it is 
futile to attempt to pray well when one is fatigued. By the samé token, public prayers should be 
arranged in such a way that they arouse the devotion of the faithful and do not cause tedium. "In 
your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will 
make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask 
him" (Matt. 6:7-9). 

It is not possible to give any fixed rule or detailed directions for the formulas to be ušed in vocal 
prayer. Perhaps the best principle to follow is that given for the selection of books for one's 

spirituál reading, námely, to use that which is beneficial. The words by which we express 
ourselves in vocal prayer will vary with our needs and our spirituál sentiments. Moreover, some 
persons find it difficult to express themselves, and therefore they make use of the prayers 
composed by others. Objectively, the best prayers are the Our Father, which was taught us by 
Christ himself, the prayers from the pages of Šcripture (the Hail Mary, Gloria, Psalms) and the 
prayers in the liturgy. Unfortunately, their constant repetition readily degenerates into a purely 
mechanical recitation. 

The necessity of feivent recitation of vocal prayer cannot be emphasized too much, because 
vocal prayer is one type of prayer that can nevěr be omitted completely, even when one arrives at 
the height of sanctity . The time comes in the practice of mental prayer when the inferior grades 
yield to the superior grades as one progresses in union with God, but this nevěr occurs with vocal 
prayer. It is always beneficial, either to arouse devotion or to give expression to the intensity and 
fervor of one's love to God. Any attacks on the practice of vocal prayer must, therefore, be 
interpreted as the sign of an evil spirit, and this spirit has been manifested by many deluded souls 
and falše mystics in the history of spirituality. 


Discursive meditation can be defined as a reasoned application of the mind to some supernatural 
truth in order to penetrate its meaning, love it, and carry it into practice with the assistance of 
grace. The distinguishing notě of meditation is that it is a discursive type of prayer, and therefore 
attention is absolutely indispensable. 

As soon as we cease to reason or discourse, we cease to meditate. We may háve given way to 
distraction, deliberately turned our mind to something else, or passed on to affective prayer or 
contemplation, but without discursus there is no meditation. 

Nature o f Meditation 

How, then, is meditation distinguished from simple study or speculation on a supernatural truth? 
Unlike the latter activities, meditation is a form of prayer, and it is such by reason of its purpose 
or finality. Actually, meditation has a double finality, one intellectual and the other affective and 
practical. The intellectual purpose is to arrive at firm convictions concerning some supernatural 
truth; hence the importance of the intellect in meditation. 

But one could acguire firm convictions by speculative study, and therefore this cannot be the 
principál finality of meditation nor that which makes meditation true prayer. The most important 
element in meditation is the act of love aroused in the will on the presentation of some 
supernatural truth by the intellect. As St. Teresa points out, meditation consists not so much in 
thinking a great deal but in loving a great deal.íil When the will bursts forth with acts of love, 
an intimate contact is established between the soul and God, and then it is that the soul can truly 
be said to be praying. Discursus is merely a preparation for the arousal of love. 

But a meditation is not completed by arousing love for the supernatural truth on which one has 
speculated. Any meditation that is pro perly made should terminate in a practical resolution for 
the future. Love cannot be idle; by its very nature it urges us to action. When the meditation has 
passed through the steps of discursus and acts of love, charity impels us to put love into action. 

Failure to make efficacious resolutions is the reason why many souls who practice daily 
meditation get little or no practical benefit from this exercise of prayer. They insist too much on 
ťhat which is merely a preparation for prayer. They pass the time in spirituál reading or 
speculation, but they do not make acts of love, nor do they make any practical resolutions. 

Another element of the definition of meditation reguires explanation: that of the subject matter. 
We háve stated that meditation is the reasoned discursus on some supematural truth, meaning 
any truth related to God and the spirituál life. By reason of the subject matter, some authors háve 
made a further division of meditation into imaginative meditation, dogmatic meditation, 
liturgical meditation, moral meditation. One can meditate on a variety of subjects; e.g., some 
scene or mystery from the life of Christ, the life and virtues of Mary or the saints, a particular 
virtue to be acguired orvice to be uprooted, a truth from dogmatic theology, such as the 
attributes of God or the indwelling of the Trinity, the prayers and actions of the sacraments, the 
Mass, and the liturgy. 

The guiding principle for subject matter is to select what is needed at a particular time and will 
be beneficial according to one's capacities. Conseguently, it is importantto insist upon prudence 
in the selection of the materiál for meditation. Not all subject matters are suited for all souls, not 
even for a given soul in varying circumstances. In generál, young people or beginners in the 
practice of meditation will do well to utilize what has been called imaginative meditation (scenes 
from the life of Christ, Mary, and the saints), liturgical meditations, or moral meditations (which 
help one to uproot vices and cultivate virtue). 

Methods of Meditation 

In selecting a method of meditation, two extremes should be avoided: excessive rigidity and 
inconstancy. At the beginning of the practice of prayer it is generally necessary to adhere to 
some method or other, because as yet the soul does not know how to proceed in the life of 
prayer. In these early stages it is important that the soul should not only follow a method, but that 
it should also select the most beneficial method, for the needs of souls are not identical. 

As the soul progresses in the practice of prayer, however, and is more at ease in conversing with 
God, the method becomes less and less important and eventually may even become an obstacle 
to further progress. It should also be noted that, since we are not usually the best judge of our 
own needs, a prudent and wise spirituál director is of great help in leading the soul from one 
grade of prayer to another, so long as the director is not slavishly addicted to one method 

Although ancient writers such as St. John Cassian and St. Bernard spoke about methods of 
prayer, it was not until the sixteenth century that spirituál writers began to offer detailed methods 
of discursive prayer. Since that time, methods of prayer háve been compiled or adapted by such 
writers as Louis of Granada, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. 
John Baptist de la Salle, and Cardinal Bérulle. We shall content ourselves with offering two 
outlines of methods of prayer and leave the others to the personál research of the reader.(5) 

Method ofSt. Ignatius Loyola: (6) 


acts of faiťh and reverence in the presence of God 

generál preparatory prayer to ask the grace of making a 

good meditation 

composition of pláce (exercise of the imagination) 

petition for the speciál grace sought in the meditation 

Body of the meditation 

exercise of the memory to recall the materiál to be meditated upon 

exercise of the intellect by reflection and consideration of the materiál of the meditation and 
practical applications and conclusions to be drawn from it 

exercise of the will by arousing devout feelings and affections and by making practical, 
particular resolutions 


colloguy or conversation with God 

vocal prayer, such as Our Father, Hail Mary, etc. 



imaginative representation of materiál 

reflection or meditation properly so called 

affective colloguy or conversation with God 




Regardless of method, all meditation can be reduced ultimately to a basic framework containing 
all the essential parts of meditation: consideration of some supernatural truth, application of that 
truth to one's life, and the resolution to do something about it. These three steps, we believe, are 

absolutely essential for true meditation; the other details may or may not be ušed according to the 
needs of individual souls. 

Practice o f Meditation 

What time of day is best for meditation? It is better by far to select the most opportune time of 
the day and then observe the samé time each day. Regularity in prayer is of extréme importance, 
for it is easy to alter the schedule, then change the time for any pretext whatever, and ultimately 
abandon the practice of prayer. 

It should be noted that not all times are egually satisfactory. As a generál rule it is more difficult 
to meditate after a heavy meal, immediately after recreation, or when the mind is distracted or 
fatigued by many occupations. Most writers on the spirituál life statě that the best times for 
meditation are early in the morning, the latě afternoon before the evening meal, or latě at night 
when one has finished all the duties and occupations of the day. But even this cannot be given as 
a hard and fast rule, and perhaps the best norm to be followed is to meditate when one's mind is 
most alert and one can be recollected. 

The duration of meditation cannot be the samé for all individuals or for all states of life. It 
should, so far as possible, be adjusted to the needs of each. Religious are usually obliged by their 
Constitutions to devote a definite period of time to mental prayer. Although there are various 
opinions concerning the length of time to be spent in meditation, it is reasonable to statě that if 
the time spent in meditation is too brief, most of the period is ušed in getting ready to pray and 
not in actual prayer; but if the time is too long, devotion is stifled and the period assigned for 
prayer becomes a period of penance. 

St. Thomas Aguinas teaches that prayer should last as long as the soul is in a statě of fervor and 
devotion, and that it should terminate when it can no longer be prolonged without tedium and 
continual distractions.(7) Whatever the length of time given to meditation, its influence should 
be felt throughout the whole day. In this way, as St. Thomas suggests, prayer can be constant. 
The use of fervent ejaculatory prayers will preserve the fire of devotion throughout the day. The 
important thing is that one lead a life of prayer; without it, one can hope to gain little from the 
particular times set aside for meditation. 

We háve already spoken of the pláce for prayer when we treated of vocal prayer, but something 
further needs to be said concerning meditation. The church is the most fitting pláce for 
meditation because of the sanctity of the pláce, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the 
solitude and recollection usually found there. Y et, meditation can be made in any pláce in which 
a person can be recollected and can concentrate on the materiál of the meditation. It is a guestion 
of particular dispositions, and the best rule of conduct is the one based on personál experience. 

Posture during meditation is important because of the necessity of recollection and attention in 
discursive prayer. Some persons may find it most effective to meditate while kneeling, but for 
others the discomfort may prove a cause of distraction. But whether we are kneeling, seated, or 
standing, two extremes should be avoided: excessive comfort and excessive mortification. If we 
are too comfortable, we may find it difficult to keep our mind on the materiál of meditation, or 
we may even fall asleep. If we are too uncomfortable, the position may be a cause of distraction 
and will soon kill devotion. 

From what has been stated, it should be evident that the practice of meditation is a great spirituál 
help. Numerous persons who live habitually in sin continue in that condition simply because they 
nevěr reflect seriously upon the statě of their souls. Some of them do not háve malicious hearts, 
nor do they hatě the things of God or their own salvation; they háve simply given themselves 
entirely to purely natural activities and háve neglected the things that are of importance to their 

One of the greatest proofs that their sad condition is due not so much to malice as to the lack of 
reflection is the fact that when they retům to the practice of their religion, or attend a retreat or 
mission, they may experience a complete conversion of life. With good reason does St. Teresa 
maintain that the practice of mental prayer is necessarily connected with growth in virtue. It is, 
therefore, a great help for salvation to cultivate the practice of daily meditation. 

Those who aspire to sanctity by giving themselves completely to the active life while neglecting 
the life of prayer may just as well forget about Christian perfection. Experience proves that there 
is absolutely nothing that can supply for the life of prayer, not even the daily reception of the 
Eucharist. There are many persons who receive Communion every day, yet their spirituál life is 
mediocre and lukewarm. The reason is none other than the lack of mental prayer, either because 
they omit it entirely or they practice it in a mechanical and routine fashion. We repeat that 
without prayer it is impossible to attain Christian perfection, no matter what our statě of life or 
the occupation to which we dedicate ourselves. 

Affective Prayer 

Although St. Teresa of Avila does not use the expression affective prayer in any of her writings, 
she does refer to this grade of prayer,{8) and it has been accepted by all the schools of 

Affective prayer may be defined as a type of prayer in which the operations of the will 
predominate over discursus of the intellect. There is no specific difference between affective 
prayer and meditation, as there is between meditation and contemplation; it is merely a 
simplified meditation in which love predominates. For this reason the transition to affective 
prayer is usually gradual and more or less easy, although this will vary with individuals. 

Some persons are by nature so affectionate and responsive that they very easily rise from 
intellectual discursus to the movement of the will. Others, on the contrary, are so cold and rigid 
by nature that their prayer is almost entirely discursive, and they seldom give expression to 
affections of the will. Such individuals need more time and experience to arrive at the practice of 
affective prayer. The method of St. Ignatius is not as conducive to affective prayer as is the 
simpler method ušed by the Carmelities and the Franciscans. 

When should we expect to make the transition from discursive meditation to affective prayer? 
Two extremes must be avoided: to leave meditation too guickly or too latě. In practice, however, 
these extremes can easily be avoided if we také care to simplify discursive meditation gradually, 
without trying to force ourselves. It is almost certain that if we practice daily meditation we will 
from time to time experience affections that háve been stimulated by some point in meditation. 
When this occurs, we should give ourselves gently to the movements of love, and as these 
moments become more and more freguent, we shall make the transition from discursive 

meditation to affective prayer. 

Practice of Affective Prayer 

Discursive meditation should lead to the practice of affective prayer, but it is impossible to 
practice affective prayer exclusively because the will is a blind faculty that needs direction and 
enlightenment before it can love and desire the good. For that reason discursive meditation and 
spirituál reading play an important part in the practice of affective prayer; they supply the 
materiál that stimulates the activity of the will. 

Hence we must be careful not to terminate discursive meditation before the affections háve been 
stimulated. This would be a waste of time and could also be the source of illusion. Neither 
should we force the affections; when they do not come forth spontaneously, or when they háve 
run their course, we should return to discursive or vocal prayer and not try to prolong the 
affection by our own efforts. 

Neither should we be anxious to pass from one affection to another. Rather, we should attempt 
gradually to simplify the movements of the will. The operations of the will should be reduced to 
unity, and the affections should be deep-seated rather than numerous. The practice of affective 
prayer is best guaranteed by the use of a discursive meditation that considers the materiál point 
by point and pauses at any moment in which the affections of the will háve been stimulated. We 
should yield to this affection until it has run its course, and then return to the next point in the 
meditation. This is likewise a commendable method to be followed in spirituál reading or in the 
use of a manuál of prayer. As soon as some thought has stimulated and aroused a movement of 
the will, we should stop reading and allow the will to perform its operation. 

If properly ušed, affective prayer confers many benefits on the soul. Psychologically, it provides 
a delightful respite from the dry labor of discursive meditation. It also prevents us from 
becoming excessively introspective or relying too greatly upon our own efforts, as could happen 
easily if we were to devote ourselves exclusively to discursive meditation and nevěr allow the 
will to break forth in acts of love. 

Because affective prayer is essentially an operation of the will, it serveš to deepen the union of 
the soul with God by acts of love. And since all the infused virtues are increased with the 
increase of charity, affective prayer is a powerful means for growth in virtue. It is likewise a 
great stimulus for the practice of the Christian virtues because of the sweetness and consolation it 
gives. It is, lastly, an excellent disposition and preparation for the prayer of simplicity. 

Dangers in Affective Prayer 

But certain dangers and abuses must be avoided in the practice of affective prayer. First of all, 
we should nevěr use force in order to produce the affections and movements of the will. It is of 
no avail to clench the fist, to distort the face, and to groan or sigh in an effort to produce an 
intense act of the love of God. The act of love must be aroused spontaneously, and this is best 
doně by supematuralizing one's motives and striving in all things simply and solely to give glory 
to God outofpure love. 

Another possible danger in the practice of affective prayer lies in the fact that it often fills the 
heart with sensible consolation. Those who are easily stimulated to movements of affection may 

erroneously judge themselves to be more advanced in perf ection than they really are because 
ťhey feel at times as if they are going into ecstasy. Unfortunately, many of these persons see no 
contradiction in the fact that in their daily life they are constantly falling into imperf ections and 
venial sins. Trne progress in the spirituál life consists in the ever more perfect practice of the 
Christian virtues and not in the sweetness one experiences in prayer. Moreover, persons who 
pláce great value on sensible consolations are in danger of practicing prayer primarily for the 
delight it gives them. This is the spirituál gluttony that St. John of the Cross criticizes with 

Lastly, there is the danger that persons who háve tasted the delight and consolation of affective 
prayer may fall into slothfulness, which will prevent them from retuming to the discursive 
meditation they had formerly practiced. It is a serious mistake to think that once the soul has 
enjoyed habitual affective prayer it need nevěr return to the practice of meditation. St. Teresa 
asserts that sometimes it is necessary to retům to the lower grades of prayer even after having 
experienced mystical contemplation. (lO) 

Fruits of Affective Prayer 

There is an infallible rule for judging the value of any kind of prayer: examine the fruits it 
produces. This is the supreme norm for the discernment of spirits, as given by Christ himself (cf. 
Matt. 7:16). The value of affective prayer cannot be measured by the intensity or the freguency 
of the sensible consolations that are experienced; it must be judged by the increasing perfection 
in the life of the individual. This means that the fruits of affective prayer should be a more 
intense practice of the Christian virtues, an increasing purity of intention, a spirit of self-denial 
and detachment, an increase in charity, and the faithful and exact fulfillment of the duties of 
one's statě in life. Affective prayer, in špite of the consolations it gives, is not the goal or 
terminus of the life of prayer; it is only a step along the way to the perfection of prayer in the 
mystical statě. 

Prayer of Simplicity 

It seems that Jacgues Bossuet (1627-1704) was the first author to use this expression,(l_l) but this 
type of prayer was recognized by St. Teresa as the prayer of acguired recollection, to distinguish 
it from infused recollection, the first grade of mystical prayer. (12) Other authors call this prayer 
the prayer of simple gáze, of the presence of God or of the simple vision of faith. 

In the seventeenth century some writers began to call this prayer acguired contemplation. St. 
John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila nevěr ušed that expression, and although there is no 
objection to the use of the term (it is simply the prayer of acguired recollection, according to St. 
Teresa, or the prayer of simplicity, according to Bossuet), many authors now restrict the word 
contemplation to the mystical grades of prayer. This is more faithful to the language of St. John 
of the Cross. 

The prayer of simplicity was defined by Bossuet, as a simple loving gáze upon some divine 
object, whether on God himself or one of his perfections, on Christ or on one of his mysteries, or 
on some other Christian truth. It is a form of ascetical prayer that is extremely simplified. The 
discursus formerly ušed in meditation has now been transformed into a simple intellectual gáze; 
the affections that were experienced in affective prayer háve been unified into a simple loving 

attention to God. The prayer is ascetical, meaning that the soul is able to attain to this type of 
prayer by its own efforts with the help of ordinary grace, but often it is the transition point to 
mystical prayer. 

The prayer of simplicity is thus the bridge between ascetical and mystical prayer. It is, as it were, 
the finál disposition before the Holý Spirit begins to operáte in the soul by means of his gifts. For 
that reason, one may freguently experience a blending of acguired and infused elements in the 
practice of the prayer of simplicity. If the soul is faithful/the infused elements will graduaUy be 
increased until they dominate the practice of prayer entirely. Thus, without any shock and almost 
insensibly, the soul proceeds gently from the ascetical practice of prayer to mystical 
contemplation. This is an indication of the unity of the spirituál life and of the fact that there is 
only one road to perfection. 

Practice ofthe Prayer of Simplicity 

Because of its simplicity, there is no particular method for this type of prayer. It is simply a 
guestion of gazing and loving. It is useful, however, to keep in mind certain counsels. Before we 
actually enter upon the prayer of simplicity, we must také great care not to try to hasten the 
entrance into this type of prayer. So long as we are able to meditate and to practice affective. 
prayer, we should continue with those types of prayer. 

The contrary extréme should likewise be avoided. We should not continue the practice of 
meditation or even of affective prayer if we perceive clearly that we can remain before God in 
loving attention without any particular discursus or affective movement. St. John of the Cross 
severely criticizes spirituál directors who try to restrict souls to the practice of meditation when 
they háve advanced far enough to enter the prayer of simplicity .(13) 

It is fitting that the soul should dispose itself for this prayer by means of some materiál, es was 
doně in the use of meditation, but it should abandon it immediately if the attraction of grace so 
inclines. The preparation should be very brief and should not be concerned with many details. 
The prayer of simplicity reguires that the powers of the soul be intimately united in a loving 
gáze, and this reguires that the object of attention should be simple and unified. 

During the practice of the prayer of simplicity, the soul should strive to preseive the loving 
attention that is fixed on God, but without forcing itself. It must avoid distractions and 
slothfulness; but if it exerts too much effort it will destroy the simplicity of the prayer. 
Psychologically it is difficult for us to remain attentive over a long period of time, and therefore 
we should not expect, especially in the beginning, to be able to practice the prayer of simplicity 
for long periods of time. As soon as the loving attention begins to waver, we should tum to the 
use of affective prayer or simple meditation. A 11 must be doně gently and without violence. Nor 
should the soul be upset if periods of dryness occur. The prayer of simplicity is not always a 
sweet and consoling type of prayer; it is also a transition from ascetical to mystical prayer, and 
therefore the soul may experience the aridity that normally accompanies transitional states. 

Fruits ofthe Prayer of Simplicity 

The fruits of the prayer of simplicity should be manifested in a generál improvement and 
progress in the Christian life. Our entire life and conduct should benefit from the practice of this 
prayer. And since grace tends more and more to simplify our conduct until it is reduced to unity 

in love, we should foster this tendency by avoiding every kind of affectation and multiplicity in 
our relations with God and our neighbor. This simplification of life should characterize those 
who háve entered the prayer of simplicity. It should be especially manifested in a deep and 
continuous recollection in God. 

Even when occupied with the ordinary duties of daily life, the soul should be interiorly gazing 
upon God and loving him. The presence of God should be especially felt during liturgical prayer 
and in the recitation of vocal prayer. The examination of conscience should be so implicit that a 
rapid glance reveals the faults and imperfections of the day: All external works should be 
performed with the spirit of prayer and with the ardent desire of giving glory to God, and even 
the most commonplace tasks should be permeated with the spirit of faith and love. 

All the advantages of affective prayer over simple meditation are found as well in the prayer of 
simplicity, but noticeably increased. As affective prayer is an excellent preparation for the prayer 
of simplicity, so the latter is a disposition for infused contemplation. With much less effort than 
before, the soul achieves magnificent results in the practice of prayer. Thus, each new grade of 
prayer represents a new advance in the Christian life. 

Strictly speaking, it is not possible to make a complete separation between ascetical and mystical 
prayer as manifested in any particular soul because persons in the ascetical statě are capable of 
receiving certain mystical influences through the operations of the gifts of the Holý Spirit, and 
mystics will act in a purely ascetical fashion when the gifts are not actually operating. What is 
certain is that in the ascetical statě there will be a predominance of ascetical activity, and in the 
mystical statě the operations of the gifts of the Holý Spirit will be predominant. Conseguently, it 
is not surprising that the gifts of the Holý Spirit should sometimes begin to operáte while the soul 
is in the highest grade of ascetical prayer, námely, the prayer of simplicity. 

Contemplative Prayer 

The word contemplation signifies knowledge accompanied by delight, and the object of the 
knowledge is usually of such a type that it arouses admiration and captivates the soul. Since 
contemplation is an operation of the cognitive powers, there is such a thing as a purely natural 
and acguired contemplation in the natural order. 

But contemplation is a distinctive type of knowledge. It is an experimental knowledge in the 
sense that it calls into play the affective powers of the individua!. Contemplation is, therefore, an 
operation in which one experiences the happy blending of the cognitive and the affective powers 
in an activity providing great delight. The knowledge involved is not discursive but intuitive; the 
movement of love is not toward the possession of the object loved but one of surrender to the 
object loved. Perhaps the best example of natural contemplation is found in the aesthetic 
experience of the beautiful. 

Supernatural Contemplation 

Supernatural or infused contemplation has been defined by various formulas, but the essential 
notě that all definitions háve in common is that supernatural contemplation is an experimental 
knowledge of God. Moreover, as a supernatural activity, infused contemplation reguires the 
operation of faculties that are likewise supernatural, both in their substance and in their mode of 
operation. Conseguently when we speak of contemplation as a grade of mystical prayer, we 

restrict the word to signify the loving knowledge of God that is experienced through the 
operation of the gifts of wisdom and understanding, presupposing, of course, faith informed by 
charity. St. Teresa calls this prayer infused recollection. 

For the saké of clarity and conciseness, we can summarize the theology of infused contemplation 
in the following statements, some of which apply likewise to the higher grades of mystical prayer 
and the mystical experience in generál: 

1. Infused contemplation is not a charism or "gratia gratis data" but a grade of prayer made 
possible by the operation ofthe gifts ofthe Holý Spirit, given to all souls with sanctifying grace. 
Charisms or gratiae gratis datae are given for the good of others and do not sanctify the one who 
receives them, nor do they prove the sanctity of one who receives them. Infused contemplation, 
on the other nand, is ordained to the spirituál good of the one who receives it, and it is also 
meritorious and sanctifying. And since all souls in grace possess the gifts of the Holý Spirit, their 
operation in mystical contemplation does not constitute a charism, gratia gratis data, or an 
extraordinary phenomenon of the spirituál life. 

2. Infused contemplation necessarily requires sanctifying grace. Infused contemplation is nevěr 
given without the operation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit, and these are inseparable from grace. 
Moreover, contemplation is one of the effects of an intense love of God, which presupposes 
sanctifying grace and the virtue of charity. 

3. Contemplation requires the impulse ofactual grace. The reason for this is that contemplation 
is a supernatural act, and therefore it reguires a previous movement of actual grace to reduce the 
supernatural powers from potency to act. 

4. The infused virtues ofthe affective order are not the immediate, formal, and eliciting 
principles ofthe act of contemplation, although they may serve as antecedent dispositions or 
consequent effects. The affective moral virtues remotely prepare for contemplation by controlling 
the lower appetites; the virtue of charity has a direct influence on the act of contemplation by 
uniting the soul with God and then producing in the will the joy that is the delight of 

5. The immediate eliciting principles of contemplation are the gifts of wisdom and understanding 
perfecting the act of faith informed by charity. Since the faculty in which contemplation takés 
pláce is the speculative intellect, the power by which contemplation is produced must be one that 
perfects the speculative intellect. Therefore, contemplation reguires the operation of the virtue of 
faith and the gifts of wisdom and understanding. 

One and the samé action, however, cannot proceed in exactly the samé way from specifically 
distinct habits. Faith provides the substance of the act of contemplation by formally. establishing 
contact with God as First Truth, but without giving a vision of the truth because the knowledge 
of faith is obscure. 

The virtue of charity plays its part in contemplation as a proximate disposition whereby the 
object of faith is made present to the subject in a connatural manner. It is, therefore, 
indispensable that faith be informed by charity. 

The intellectual gifts of the Holý Spirit provide the supernatural mode by which contemplation 

becomes an experimental knowledge. 

"The gift of understanding provides the foraial mystical knowledge by making the object present 
as something known. The gift of wisdom perfects the virtue of faith by giving a knowledge of 
God that is not discursive but intuitive; it perfects the virtue of charity by giving a savory 
experience of God and supematural mysteries. 

Characteristics oflnfused Contemplation 

Having considered the nature of contemplation from a theological point of view, we shall now 
describe the characteristics by which infused contemplation can be recognized and distinguished 
from other manifestations of the spirituál life. 

1. An experience ofthe presence ofGod. Many authors of mystical theology pláce great 
emphasis on this characteristic and consider it the essential notě of infused contemplation. God 
gives to the soul an experimental, intellectual knowledge of his presence. This characteristic is 
essential for mystical contemplation but not for mystical experience in generál because the soul 
may lack the experience of the presence of God when it is undergoing the passive purification of 
the soul, which St. John of the Cross describes as a "purgative" contemplation. (14) 

2. The invasion ofthe soul by the supematural The soul feels in an unmistakable manner that it 
is permeated with something it cannot describe with precision, but feels clearly is something 
supematural. It is, in fact, an effect of the operation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit which 
inundate the soul with supematural life. 

3. Impossibility ofproducing the mystical experience by one's efforts. The soul is fully aware of 
the fact that the experience it is enjoying has not been produced by its own efforts and that it will 
not last a second longer than is desired by the Holý Spirit who causes it. The soul is a passive 
subject of a sublime experience it could not produce of itself. The reason is that contemplation is' 
produced through the operation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit and individual souls are unable by 
their own efforts to activate the gifts. The gifts are directly under the control of the Holý Spirit 
'and they operáte when he desires and only so long as he desires. 

God works in the soul according to his own good pleasure. Sometimes the mystical experience 
begins, is intensified, and then gradually diminishes until it disappears entirely, and this is what 
happens most freguently. But at other times the mystical experience may appear and disappear 
suddenly. And since this is Goďs activity, it would be most imprudent for a spirituál director to 
command a particular soul to discontinue mystical prayer in order to retům to ordinary prayer. 

4. In contemplation the soul is more passive than active. We háve already stated that the soul 
cannot contemplate whenever it wishes, but only when the Holý Spirit desires and in the measure 
and degree he desires. Under the action of the gifts, the soul reacts in a vítal manner and 
cooperates with all its efforts in the divine movement but it is an activity that is received, so to 
speak. This is the famous patiens divina that is experienced by all mystics. St. Thomas says that 
in the operations of the gifts of the Holý Spirit the human soul does not act as mover, but rather 
as the thing moved.(15) 

5. The experimental knowledge ofGod enjoyed during contemplation is not clear and distinct but 
obscure and confused. St. John of the Cross explains this characteristic of infused contemplation 

in The Ascent of Mount Carmel. The theological reason for ťhis confused and obscure 
knowledge is that the contemplative light of the gifts of ťhe Holý Spirit is cast upon the act of 
faith to illumine it extrinsically and subjectively, but not intrinsically and objectively, since faith 
is of things not seen. Only the light of glory {lumen gloriae) will give us a clear and distinct 
contemplation of God and his mysteries, and ťhis occurs in the beatific vision. In this life, 
however, so long as we live by faith, the knowledge of the contemplative must necessarily be 
obscure and confused. 

Nevertheless, it is possible that certain extraordinary phenomena that are clear and distinct may 
occur during the mystical experience. There are certain gratiae gratis datae, such as visions and 
locutions, that present new infused species but are the result of a speciál divine action that is 
gratuitous and extraordinary. The extraordinary phenomena are not the normál activity of infused 

6. Infused contemplation gives full security and assurance to the soul that it is under the action 
ofGod. According to the testimony of mystics, so long as the contemplative activity continues, 
the soul cannot háve the slightest doubt that God is acting upon it. Once the prayer is finished, 
the soul may doubt the experience, but during the mystical prayer it is impossible for the soul to 
háve any doubts. It is true that this assurance admits of different degrees, just as there are 
different degrees of mystical prayer. The reason for this assurance and confidence is that the 
Holý Spirit gives the soul a certitude so firm that it would sooner doubt its own existence than 
the divine reality it is experiencing. As St. Paul says: "The Spirit himself gives witness with our 
spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). 

7. Infused contemplation gives the soul moral certitude that it is in the statě ofgrace. This is a 
natural conseguence of the previous characteristics, but it is necessary to understand it properly 
in order to avoid erroneous notions. It is of faith and so defined by the Council of Trent that 
without a speciál revelation from God, we cannot be certain that we belong to the number of the 
predestined, that we will not sin again, that we will be converted again after sin, or that we will 
receive the gift of finál perseverance. Neither can we know with certainty whether we are in the 
statě of qrace. (16) 

Those who enjoy mystical contemplation háve a moral certitude of being in the statě of grace, 
and this certitude is far superior to that possessed by ordinary Christians in the ascetical statě. 
Mystical contemplation is produced by the operation of the gifts of the Holý Spirit, and these 
gifts necessarily presuppose the statě of grace. But we repeat that this certitude is not absolute 
and infallible because this is nevěr, given in this life except by a speciál divine revelation. 

8. The mystical experience is indescribable. The mystics are unable to express clearly whatthey 
experience in their mystical activities. It is only by means of examples, comparisons and 
metaphors, or circumlocution that they are able to give some notion of what transpires during 
these operations. Unless a person has had the samé experience, the descriptions given by mystics 
may seem to be exaggerated or open to misinterpretation. The reason is that the activity of the 
gifts transcends the discursive power of human reason. Mystical experiences are intuitive, and as 
such they can be experienced, but they cannot be expressed in human language. 

9. The mystical union admits ofvariations and fluctuations. St. Teresa states that the mystical 
union may last for a long time, or it may sometimes be of short duration, according to the desires 

of God, who communicates this experience. (17) Sometimes the mystical experience is so brief 
ťhat it seems to be nothing more ťhan a divine touch, and as a rule it does not remain in the samé 
degree of intensity for a long time. During the period of intensification the soul yeams for the 
crisis that is to come, but as soon as that point is reached, the experience immediately begins to 

10. Mystical experience frequently causes reactions in the body. Sometimes the intense spirituál 
delight experienced by the soul causes startling phenomena in the sensitive order. St. John of the 
Cross teaches, however, that this occurs only in beginners in the mystical life and that they 
should ignore these reactions and continue the practice of prayer. When contemplation is very 
intense, the organism may be changed visibly. The eyes become clouded and duli; respiration is 
weak and intermittent, with an occasional deep breathing as if trying to absorb the necessary 
guantity of air; the limbs are partly paralyzed; the heat of the body decreases, especially in the 
extremities. A 11 these phenomena háve been manifested time and again in mystical souls, and St. 
Teresa speaks of them in her works. (18) 

The reason for the phenomena that accompany the mystical experience is that the human 
organism can react in only a certain number of ways, and when the spirit is absorbed in an 
intense activity, the body is necessarily affected. On the other nand, if we give ourselves 
completely and energetically to corporal things, the faculties of the soul are weakened for 
spirituál things. For that reason St. Paul warns that the camal person cannot understand spirituál 
things (1 Cor. 2:14). 

11. Mystical prayer often produces, a suspension or binding of the faculties. Mystical 
contemplation may be so intense that it results in an ecstatic trance. When this occurs, it is 
inevitable that there should be a suspension of the sense faculties. Even if the contemplative 
activity does not produce this effect, however, it is freguently difficult and even impossible for 
the mystic to give attention to any other prayers or activities because of the absorption in God. 
Mystical activity tends to exclude everything that is alien to it, especially the operations that 
proceed from the effort of the subject. The practical advice to be followed during mystical 
activity is simply to submit to the action of God within the soul and to let ourselves be carried by 
the divine impulses. Only in the čase of prayers or external works that are obligatory should we 
make every effort to fulfill our duties. 

12. Infused contemplation causes a great impulse for the practice of virtue. This is one of the 
surest signs of true contemplation. The soul that does not leave its prayer with a great impulse 
toward solid virtue can be sure that it has not enjoyed truly contemplative prayer. (19) One of the 
marvelous facts of mystical experience is that a contemplative soul sometimes finds that it 
instantaneously possesses a degree of perfection in a certain virtue it has not been able to attain 
over a long period of time in špite of its efforts. 

Y et it is necessary to avoid exaggeration in this matter. In the early stages of contemplative 
prayer, the transformation is not so profound that the soul is freed from its defects. For that 
reason spirituál directors would be greatly mistaken if they were to judge a person to be deluded 
if, after having experienced mystical contemplation, he or she is still subject to certain defects. 
Such defects are often caused more by weakness than by one's deliberate will. Mystical 
contemplation greatly aids the sanctification of a soul, but it does not instantaneously or 
necessarily produce a saint. 

In the soul's progress through the ascetical phase of the spirituál life, tne purgation and perfection 
of the various faculties háve proceeded from the inferior to the superior powers, and this has 
likewise been the path followed by the soul in its progress through the ascetical grades of prayer. 
But in the mystical grades of prayer, where God is the primary mover through the operation of 
the gifts of the Holý Spirit the divine activity begins wiťh the highest faculty and progresses 
through the inferior faculties until the entire person is transformed in God. . 


Spirituál directors should také great care to guide the soul that begins to receive the first lights of 
contemplative prayer. They must be especially careful not to pláce any obstacles to their advance 
in prayer. The following are the principál counsels to be given in this particular grade of prayer: 

1. Not to cease discursive meditation until one clearly perceives the call to a higher grade of 
prayer. In the practice of prayer, as in the exercises of the spirituál life in generál, souls should 
always be prepared to do as much as they can with the assistance of ordinary grace. It would be a 
source of great harm if they were to attempt to enter upon a mystical grade of prayer when the 
Lord has not yet called them to such a high degree of prayer. St. Teresa wamed that, so long as 
the soul is not sure that God is drawing it to a mystical grade of prayer, it should not attempt to 
remain passive and inactive because that would produce nothing but aridity, and the individual 
would soon grow restless because of its inactivity. (20) 

2. Immediately to terminate all discursive prayer as soon as onefeels the impulse of grace 
toward infused prayer. This is a conseguence of the foregoing counsel. It would be foolish to 
anticipate mystical prayer, but it would be tantamount to obstructing the action of God in the 
soul if souls were to attempt to proceed by their own efforts when grace impels them to the 
passivity of contemplation. The teaching of St. Teresa on this particular point should be read 
with great attention. (21) 

Spirituál directors will usually háve to exert great effort to convince the soul that it should 
immediately abandon itself to the action of God as soon as this is felt. Some souls become 
disobedient and stubbom at this point of their development. Accustomed as they ate to certain 
vocal prayers and discursive meditations, it seems to them that it would be a waste of time to 
remain in a passive statě, and they may háve scruples about neglecting their customary private 
devotions. They do not realize that it is of much more value for a soul to experience even the 
slightest touch of the Holý Spirit than to practice all manner of spirituál exercises on their own 

3. To give themselves completely to the interior life. Souls that receive the first mystical 
Communications can usually suspect that God has predestined them for great things in the 
spirituál life. If they do not resist God, they can arrive at the summit of perfection. Fully 
convinced of the necessity of a conscientious correspondence with grace, they must definitively 
break with all the attachments that still keep them bound to earth, and must give themselves 
completely and with all their strength to the practice of virtue. 

The director must especially insist upon the practice of habitual recollection, interior and exterior 
silence, the mortification of the senses, complete detachment from earthly things, profound 
humility, and, above all, an ardent love of God that will inform and vivify everything that they 

do. They must therefore give themselves fully to the practice of prayer and remain attentive to 
the voice of God, which will call them frequently to the sweet and holý repose of contemplation. 
Nevertheless, they must také great care not to use violence on themselves, because God will 
come in his own time, and until he does, they should try to do all things gently and without 
violence under the assistance of ordinary grace. 

Prayer ofQuiet 

The prayer of quiet is a type of mystical prayer in which the intimate awareness of Goďs 
presence captivates the will and fills the soul arid body with ineffable sweetness and delight. The 
fundamental difference between the prayer of quiet and that of infused recollection, apart from 
the greater intensity of contemplative light and more intense consolations, is that the prayer of 
quiet gives the soul an actual possession and joyful fruition of the sovereign Good. 

Nature ofthe Prayer ofQuiet 

Infused contemplation principally affects the intellect, which is withdrawn from the other 
faculties, but the prayer of quiet especially affects the will. Although the intellect and the 
memory are now tranquil, they still remain free to realize what is occurring, but the will is 
completely captivated and absorbed in God. For that reason, the prayer of quiet as its name 
indicates, tends to contemplative silence and repose. Since the other faculties remain free, 
however, they can be occupied with the work of the active life, and they may do so with great 
intensity. The will does not lose its sweet quietude, but the activities of Martha and Mary begin 
to merge in a beautiful manner, as St. Teresa points out. (22) Y et the perfect blending of the 
active and contemplative life will not be achieved until the soul has reached the statě of union 
with God. 

St. Teresa describes the prayer of quiet in the following way: "From this recollection there 
sometimes proceeds an interior quiet and peace that are full of happiness because the soul is in 
such a statě that it does not seem to lack anything, and even speaking (I refer to vocal prayer and 
meditation) wearies it; it wishes to do nothing but love. This statě may, last for some time and 
even for long periods of time." (23) 

Effects ofthe Prayer ofQuiet 

The sanctifying effects produced in the soul by the prayer of quiet are enumerated by St. Teresa 
in the Fourth Mansions of her Interior Castle: (1) great liberty of spirit; (2) filial fear of God and 
great care not to offend him; (3) profound confidence in God; (4) love of mortification and 
suffering; (5) deep humility; (6) disdain for worldly pleasures; and (7) growth in all the virtues. 


The concomitant phenomena that usually accompany the prayer of quiet are sleep ofthe faculties 
and inebriation oflove. In her autobiography St. Teresa listed the sleep of the faculties as a 
distinct grade of mystical prayer superior to the prayer of quiet, but in her later works she 
changed her opinion and considered the sleep of the faculties as an effect of the prayer of quiet in 
its highest degree of intensity .(241 

According to St. Teresa, the sleep of the faculties is a phenomenon in which the faculties are not 

completely captivated, and yet they do not understand how they work. The sweetness and delight 
ťhey experience are beyond anything they háve known previously. The soul seems to be unable 
to advance or to tum back; it wishes only to enjoy this great delight. It is as if the soul were 
almost completely dead to the things of this world and enjoying God alone. It is a heavenly 
foolishness in which the soul leams true wisdom. (25) 

Sometimes the intense delight produced by the sleep of the faculties causes a kind of divine 
inebriation, which is manifested externally in a kind of foolishness of love. Sometimes there are 
cries of love or even bodily movements such as leaps of joy orthe singing of spirituál hymns. 
The love of God is so intense that it cannot be contained but must burst forth into extemal 
acts. (26) 


The generál rule of conduct for the soul in any of the states of contemplative prayer is to 
cooperate completely with the working of grace and to cultivate an increasingly profound 
humility . For the prayer of guiet in particular, the following rules should be carefully followed: 

1. Nevěr attempt to force oneselfinto this grade of prayer. It would indeed be futile, because 
mystical prayer cannot be attained by one's own efforts. 

2. Cooperate with the divine movement as soon as it is experienced. One should not delay for a 
single instant under any pretext but should follow the divine movement with all docility and 

3. Do not disturb the quiet ofthe mil by attending to the activities ofthe lower faculties. The 
memory and the imagination, since they are still free for their own operations, could easily 
become a distraction in the prayer of guiet. St. Teresa advises the soul not to pay any attention to 
these operations, but to ignore them until such time as God will bind them and captivate them 

4. Scrupulously avoid any occasion ofoffending God. St. Teresa warns that the devil freguently 
provides temptations and occasions of sin to souls who are in this degree of prayer, and she 
emphasizes the great damage that is doně even by little acts of infidelity to qrace.(28) 

5. Nevěr abandon the pracúce of prayer in špite ofany difficulty or obstacle. St. Teresa places 
stress on this particular rule, and she repeats it again and again throughout her writings. She 
states that if a soul in this grade of prayer should fall into sin through weakness or malice, it can 
always recapture the good it had lost, but if it does not retům to the practice of prayer, it will go 
from bid to worse. (29) 

She also asserts that the soul should not abandon itself excessively to the sleep of the faculties. 
She states that some persons háve such a weak constitution that as soon as they experience any 
spirituál consolation they mistakenly think it is a true spirituál sleep. The more they abandon 
themselves to this experience, the weaker they become physically, with the result that they think 
they are in a statě of rapture. Actually, all they are doing is wasting their time and ruining their 
health. She makes it very clear that when there is a truly spirituál sleep of the faculties, there is 
no weakness or languor in the soul; rather the soul is filled with a great joy. 

Moreover, the experience does not last for a long time, although the soul may return to this sleep 
of faculties. Nor is there any exterior sensation or rapture when this experience is truly from 
God. St. Teresa advises that persons of a weak constitution should sleep and eat well until they 
háve regained their physical strength, and if their constitution still remains weak, they can také 
this as 'a sign that God is not calling them to the mystical degrees of prayer. (30) 

The inebriation of love should not be confused with a natural effervescence and sentimentality, 
which are often found in enthusiastic and impressionable individuals. And even if it is a guestion 
of a true phenomenon, the soul should not let itself be carried away by this experience, but 
should strive to control and moderate it. 

Above all, one should not také this phenomenon as a sign that it is far advanced in the spirituál 
life, but should humble itself before God and nevěr seek to practice prayer in order to obtain 
consolations from God. Spirituál directors should always insist on the necessity of the practice of 
virtue, and they should attach little importance to these phenomena, especially if they perceive 
that the soul is itself attaching great importance to them or is beginning to manifest a certain 
degree of vanity. In fact, when these phenomena are truly from God, the soul is usually 
submerged in true humility . Thus humility is the great touchstone for distinguishing true gold 
from dross. 

Prayer of Union 

The prayer of union is that grade of mystical prayer in which all the intemal faculties are 
gradually captivated and occupied with God. In the prayer of guiet only the will was captivated; 
in the sleep of the faculties the intellect was also captivated, although the memory and the 
imagination remained free. In the prayer of union all the interior faculties, including the memory 
and the imagination, are captivated. Only the extemal bodily senses are now free, but they too 
will be captivated in the following grade of prayer. 

Nature ofthe Prayer of Union 

The intensity of the mystical experience caused by the prayer of union is indescribable. It is 
superior beyond compare to that of the preceding grade, to the point that the body itself is 
affected by the working of God in the soul. Without being entirely captivated, the external senses 
become almost helpless and inoperative. The soul experiences divine reality with such intensity 
that it could easily fall into ecstasy. At the beginning, this sublime absorption of the faculties in 
God lasts but a short time (a half hour at most), but as the intensity increases, it may be 
prolonged for several hours. 

The following excerpt from the writings of St. Teresa describes the prayer of union: 

It seems to me that this kind of prayer is very definitely a union of the entire soul with 
God, although it seems that his Majesty desires to give permission to the faculties to 
understand and enjoy the great things that he is effecting there. It sometimes happens, and 
indeed very often, that when the will is in union, the soul understands that the will is 
captive and enjoying fruition and that the will alone is experiencing much guiet, while the 
intellect and the memory are so free that they can attend to other matters and be engaged 
in works of charity. This, although it may seem to be the samé, is actually different from 
the prayer of guiet of which I háve already spoken, partly because, in that prayer, the soul 

would not wish to be occupied in anything else, or to be active, since it is enjoying tne 
holý repose of Mary; but in this prayer it can also be Martha, so that it is, as it were, 
occupied in both the active and the contemplative liře, performing works of charity and 
ťhe duties of its statě, and reading, although souls in this statě are not masters of 
themselves and they realize that the better part of the soul is occupied elsewhere. It is as 
if we were speaking to one person while another person is speaking to us, with the result 
that we cannot be fully attentive to the one or the other. (31) 

Signs ofthe Prayer of Union 

The essential characteristics of the prayer of union and the signs by which it can be recognized 
and distinguished from other grades of prayer are the following: 

1. Absence of distractions. The reason for this is that the memory and imagination, which are the 
faculties that usually cause distraction, are now fixed on God and held captive. There may be a 
return to lower grades of prayer from time to time, and then distractions may again disturb the 
soul, but during the prayer of union distractions are psychologicaHy impossible. 

2. Certitude ofbeing intimately united with God. The soul cannot doubt that it experiences God 
during the prayer of union. On leaving the lower grades of prayer, the soul may experience 
certain doubts or fears that it was not truly united with God, or that it was deceived by the devil, 
but in the prayer of union the certitude of experiencing God is so absolute that St. Teresa 
maintains that, if the soul does not experience this certitude, it did not háve the true prayer of 
union. (32) 

3. Absence ofweariness and tedium. The soul absorbed in God nevěr wearies of its union with 
the Beloved. It is overwhelmed with delight, and however long the prayer of union may last, the 
soul nevěr experiences any fatigue. For that reason, St. Teresa says that this grade of prayer can 
nevěr do any harm to the individual, no matter how long it may last. (33) 

St. Teresa lists the principál effects of the prayer of union in the Fifth Mansions of her Interior 
Castle. The soul is so anxious to praise God that it would gladly die a thousand deaths for his 
saké. It has an intense longing to suffer great trials, and experiences vehement desires for 
penance and solitude. It wishes that all souls would know God, and it is greatly saddened when it 
sees that God is offended. The soul is dissatisfied with everything that it sees on earth, since God 
has given it wings so that it can fly to him. And whatever it does for God seems very little by 
comparison with what it desires to do. Its weakness has been turned into strength, and it is no 
longer bound by any ties of relationship or friendship or worldly possessions. It is grieved at 
having to be concerned with the things of earth, lest these things should cause it to sin against 
God. Everything wearies it because it can find no true rest in any created thing. 


The prayer of union is usually accompanied by certain concomitant phenomena distinct from 
gratiae gratis datae. Although these phenomena do not occur at any definite moment and are 
transitory graces that God grants according to his good pleasure, they are usually experienced 
when the soul reaches this degree of prayer. There are four principál concomitant phenomena: 
mystical touches, flights ofthe spirit, fiery darts oflove, and wounds oflove. St. John of the 
Cross and St. Teresa of Avila give detailed descriptions of these phenomena. (34) 

The mystical touches are a kind of instantaneous supematural impression that gives the soul a 
sensation of having been touched by God himself. This divine contact imparts to the soul an 
ineffable delight that defies description. The soul sometimes utters a cry or falls into ecstasy. The 
touches themselves admit of varying degrees of intensity; the most sublime are those that St. 
John of the Cross describes as "substantial touches." The expression designates that the soul 
senses the mystical touches as if they had been experienced in the very center or substance of the 
soul, although in reality they are experienced in the spirituál faculties of intellect and will. St. 
John of the Cross wams souls that they should not attempt to experience these mystical touches 
by their own efforts but should remain humble and resigned before God and passively receive 
whatever he deigns to send ťhem. (35) 

Flights ofthe spirit as the name indicates, are strong and unexpected impulses of love of God 
that leave the soul with a consuming thirst for God. The soul feels that it could nevěr satiate its 
thirst for love, even if all creation were permeated with divine love. Sometimes the mere mention 
of God causes the soul to react with such a violent impetus that the body is overwhelmed by an 
ecstatic trance. A remarkable notě in regard to these violent impulses is that they nevěr cause any 
physical or mental harm to the individual, although any similar impulse in the purely natural 
order could be seriously harmful. St. Teresa wisely cautions individuals to make a careful 
distinction between those impulses of love that flow from some natural cause, and must therefore 
be controlled by reason, and the truly mystical touches that are passively received by the soul 
from God.(36) 

According to St. John of the Cross, the fiery darts oflove are certain hidden touches that, like a 
fiery arrow, burn and pierce the soul and leave it completely cauterized by the fire of love. (37) 
St. Teresa describes this phenomenon as a wounding of the soul, as if an arrow pierced the soul. 
It causes great affliction, and at the samé time it is very delectable. The wound is not a physical 
one, but it is felt deep within the soul and seems to spring from the soul's inmost depths. It 
arouses profound desires for God and a kind of hatred of the body, which seems at that time to be 
an obstacle to the soul's fruition of God. 

The wounds oflove are similar to the preceding phenomenon, but they are more profound and 
more lasting.{38] St. John of the Cross remarks that the fiery darts of love are usually caused by 
the knowledge of God that the soul receives through created things, while the wounds of love are 
caused by the knowledge of the works of the Incamation and the mysteries of faith. The effects 
of these wounds are similar to the effects of the fiery darts, but they are more profound. The soul 
lovingly complains to God at not being able to leave this life and to enjoy the intimate union with 
him in heaven. One of the best commentaries on this phenomenon is to be found in The Spirituál 
Canticle, Stanzas9-ll. 

Prayer of C onforming Union 

The prayer of union, as we háve seen, unites the soul intimately with God and is, in a sense, the 
last grade of mystical prayer, although it admits of degrees of intensity. St. Teresa treats of the 
prayer of union in the last three mansions of The Interior Castle and assigns the types of this 
prayer as follows: fifth mansions, the prayer of union; sixth mansions, spirituál betrothal; seventh 
mansions, spirituál marriage. But she likewise explains that these three are genericaHy the samé 
prayer; the difference lies in the degree to which God unites the soul to himself .(39) 

Some authors, wishing to use St. Teresa's terminology, call this degree of union the spirituál 
betrothal or espousal; others call it the prayer of ecstatic union, taking the name from the 
predominant extemal phenomenon of this prayer. We prefer, however, to use the expressions 
conforming and transforming union for these last two degrees of mystical prayer; first, because 
some persons find the betrothal and marriage symbols distasteful, and secondly because the term 
ecstatic union stresses a concomitant phenomenon rather than the union between the soul and 

Nature of Conforming Union 

In the prayer of simple union all the interior faculties of the soul are centered on God alone; only 
the external senses are still free. But in the prayer of conforming union God captivates even the 
extemal senses, with the result that the soul is totally divinized, so to speak, and prepared by God 
to move to the full and finál commitment of the transforming union. This means that the 
conforming union is dosely connected with the prayer of simple union and is indeed its 
expansion. St. Teresa says as much when she remarks that what there is in the fifth and sixth 
mansions is the samé, but the effects are different (40) 

In the prayer of conforming union, therefore, the soul loses the use of its external senses, either 
partially or totally, because all the interior faculties are absorbed in God and the senses are 
alienated from their proper natural functioning. It is with difficulty that the soul turns its attention 
to extemal activity, though it knows that sometimes it must "leave God for God" in performing 
its duties or services of charity for others. But the predominant sentiment of these souls is the 
longing for full and perfect union with God, accompanied by a longing for death. The soul now 
echoes the yearning of St. Paul to be dissolved and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23) and the 
statement of St. Teresa as a child: "I want to see God, but to see God we must die." 

St. Teresa has given us a clear and detailed description of the prayer of conforming union in The 
Life and in the sixth mansions of The Interior Cflst/e. (41) St. John of the Cross treats of this 
grade of prayer in The Spirituál Canticle and The Living Fláme, but he says that although this 
would be a pláce to discuss the different kinds of rapture and ecstasy experienced by spirituál 
persons, "I pass overthe subject because the blessed Teresa of Jesus, our mother, left notes 
admirably written upon these things of the spirit." (42) We shall, therefore, follow dosely the 
teaching of St. Teresa in describing the conforming union, which she calls spirituál betrothal. 

And now you are going to see what His Majesty does to confirm this betrothal, for this, 
as I understand it, is what happens when he bestows raptures which carry the soul out of 
its senses; for if, while still in possession of its senses, the soul saw that it was so near to 
such great majesty, it might perhaps be unable to remain alive .... 

The position, in this čase, as I understand it, is that the soul has nevěr before been so fully 
awake to the things of God or had such light or such knowledge of His Majesty. This may 
seem impossible because, if the faculties are so completely absorbed that we might 
describe them as dead, and the senses are so as well, how can the soul be said to 
understand this secreť? I cannot say, nor perhaps can any creature.(43) 

St. John of the Cross speaks of the prayer of conforming union in similar terms: 

That we may the better understand what flight this is, it is to be noted that, as we háve 

said, in that visitation of the divine Spirit the spirit of the soul is enraptured with great 
force, to commune with the Spirit and abandons the body, and ceases to experience 
feelings and to háve its actions in the body, since it has them in God. For this cause said 
St. Paul with respect to that rapture of his, that he knew .not if his soul was receiving it 
in the body, or out of the body .(441 

In the ecstatic experience of the conforming union, the soul not only has contact with God in the 
very center of its soul, but also it seems to peer into the very essence of God and discover divine 
secrets. St. Teresa emphasizes also that ecstatic prayer is characterized by a new and great light, 
unlike any the soul has ever known before, so much so that the soul feels as if it has been in 
another world. 

Mystical Ecstasy 

Ecstasy enters into the very nature and definition of the prayer of conforming union, and that is 
why some authors prefer to use the name ecstatic prayer. The soul experiences that it is in God 
and God is in the soul, and the concentration is so complete that all the faculties are absorbed in 
this union. It is, in a sense, the experienced fulfillment of the first precept of charity: "Y ou shall 
love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your . soul, and with all your strength" 
(Deut. 6:5; cf. Matt. 22:37). 

Mystical ecstasy is therefore a concomitant or normál phenomenon of the prayer of conforming 
union. Unlike prophetic ecstasy, which is a gratia gratis data, mystical ecstasy is both 
sanctifying and meritorious. The essential element in this prayer, however, is the absorption of 
the soul in God; the ecstasy is a secondary but concomitant element. Both of these elements are 
necessary for true mystical ecstasy. Without the union with God in infused contemplative prayer, 
the ecstasy would be a natural ecstasy or trance, a falsification of mystical ecstasy caused by an 
evil spirit, orthe gratia gratis data of prophetic ecstasy .(45) 

The efficient cause of mystical ecstasy is the Holý Spirit working through his gifts. Operating 
through the gifts of wisdom and understanding, he uses the latter to illuminate faith and the 
former to stimulate charity to a most vehement love that causes the alienation of the senses. 

The formal cause of ecstasy is an intense degree of infused contemplation, although not the 
maximum degree. A less intense form of contemplation would not cause the suspension of the 
faculties; the highest degrees of mystical prayer do not cause any ecstasy. When the individual is 
accustomed to the divine illumination and is strengthened sufficiently to withstand it, as occurs 
in the highest degrees of the mystical life, all ecstasy will disappear. 

The principál forms of ecstasy are the gentle and delightful ecstasy and the violent and painful 
ecstasy. In the first, it seems that the soul is no longer in the body, and the body itself has the 
experience of losing its natural warmth. Nevertheless, this is accompanied by great sweetness 
and delight. This form of ecstasy is in no way harmful to health; rather, it often improves the 
individual's health. 

In its violent and painful form, the bodily suffering is so intense that the individual can hardly 
bear it. It seems sometimes as if the entire body has been dislocated. St. John of the Cross states 
that it seems as if all the bones háve dried up and that the body has lost all its strength. 
Sometimes the body becomes completely cold and appears as if dead.í46) The sweet and 

delightful form of ecstasy is simply ecstasy; the painful forai is called transport, flight of the 
spirit or rapture.(47) 

Ecstasy sometimes produces noticeable effects on the body and soul of the ecstatic. The ecstatic 
has no sensation of any materiál thing, and there is no awareness through vision of any objects in 
the vicinity, as can be proved by passing some object, even a bright light, in front of the opened 
eyes of the ecstatic. The vital functions seem to be interrupted: there is no evident sign of 
respiration, of circulation of the blood, or any movement of the lips. The sweet and gentle 
ecstasy is nevěr harmful to bodily health, but often restores or improves it; after the violent 
ecstasy, on the other nand, the body sometimes remains exhausted and painful over a period of 

Perhaps only those who háve experienced the ecstatic states of the prayer of conforming union 
can describe them properly and distinguish between ecstasy and transport of the spirit or rapture. 
But even St. Teresa found difficulty in doing so. 

I should like, with the help of God, to be able to describe the difference between union 
and rapture, or elevation, or what they call flight of the spirit, or transport - it is all one. I 
mean that these different names all refer to the samé thing, which is also called ecstasy. It 
is much more beneficial than union: the effects it produces are far more important, and it 
has a great many more operations, for union gives the impression of being justthe samé 
at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, and it all happens interiorly. But the ends 
of these raptures are both interior and exterior. (49) 

Effects o f Ecstatic Prayer 

It is possible to study ecstasy under three different aspects: the physical, the psychological, and 
the spirituál. It would be very difficult to differentiate truly mystical ecstasy from natural or 
diabolical ecstasy by using the physical or psychological aspects exclusively. In fact,.the 
physical and psychological manifestations of ecstasy are usually identical, whether the ecstasy 
has a natural, a divine, or a diabolical cause. Conseguently, it is necessary to study the effects of 
ecstasy in order to judge whether it is truly mystical and of supernatural origin. "By their fruits 
you shall know them." 

St. Teresa lists five different types of ecstasy in The Spirituál Relations, and she also provides us 
with the various phenomena that sometimes accompany each type., Some of these phenomena 
are extraordinary phenomena, while others are what we could call concomitant to the ecstatic 
prayer of the conforming union. Nor should one understand that a mystic will necessarily 
experience all five types of ecstasy; St. Teresa makes no such assertion, nor does she attempt to 
present the types as a series of ecstatic steps by which the soul reaches the transforming union. 

The first kind of ecstasy comes on gradually and reaches the point at which the soul loses contact 
with its surroundings and is drawn to God alone. The soul is conscious of what is going on 
around it, but as if at a great distance; the impression of the union with,. God is so vivid that it 
may také the soul several days to adjust to its normál life and surroundings. This type of ecstasy 
results in a pro found knowledge of God that causes the soul to háve a great, disdain for all 
created things. At the samé time it is made aware of its own misery, the extent of its failures to 
serve God, and its great indebtedness to God. As a result„the soul grows in humility, feels an 

ardent love for G od and a consuming desire to serve him as perfectly as possible. Gladly would 
ťhe soul accept martyrdom for the love of God. 

The second type of ecstasy, called rapture, "comes through a sudden light shed by His Majesty in 
the very depth of the soul, with a swiftness of movement that seems to carry away the higher part 
of it and to separate the soul from the body. "(50) The soul needs the courage to submit itself 
totally to God and to let him lead it where he will. If the soul is guite determined to die for him, 
the virtues will be all the stronger because of this and, with its deeper knowledge, there will also 
be an increase in the fear and love of God. At the samé time, the soul experiences profound 
sorrow at ever having offended God and so desires that no one will ever offend him. "This, I 
think," says St. Teresa, "must be the source of its intense desires for the salvation of souls and its 
longing that it may itself háve a part in this and that God may be praised as he deserves."(51) 

In the third kind of ecstasy, f light of the spirit, "there seems to come out of (the soul) something 
swift and subtle which rises to its higher part and goes whither the Lord wills. More than this it is 
impossible to explain; it is like a flight, and I know nothing else with which to compare it." (52) 
The soul is better able now to occupy itself with the work given it by the Lord, and it enjoys 
great certitude and security. Three things in particular are bestowed on the soul in the flight of 
the spirit: knowledge of the greatness of God, selfknowledge and humility, and a supreme 
contempt for earthly things. Some 1 mystics at this stage also receive extraordinary phenomena: 
imaginative or intellectual visions, bodily levitation, or revelations. 

The fourth type of ecstasy is caused by a spirituál impulse or transport resulting from the sudden 
remembrance, when the soul is not engaged in prayer, of its absence from God or something to 
that effect. It is a distressing type of ecstasy because nothing created can give comfort to the soul 
or satisfy its desires, but at the samé time it cannot possess God as it desires. "It feels itself to be 
in a statě of deep loneliness and total abandonment, such as cannot be described, for the world 
and all worldly things cause it distress, and no created thing can provide it with companionship; 
it seeks nothing but the Creator, yet sees that without dying it is impossible for it to háve him . ... 
It sees itself suspended between heaven and earth and has no idea what to do .... It leaves the 
limbs so disjointed and the bones so racked that the hands háve not power enough to write; it 
also produces grievous pains. Nothing of this is felt until that impulse has passed away. "(53) 

This, according to some authors, constitutes the passive purgation of the spirit, which is 
necessary before the soul can proceed to the transforming union, and according to St. Teresa, the 
only comparison of these pains is the suffering in purgatory. Visions are often associated with 
this type of ecstasy, and St. Teresa states that she experienced ecstatic impulses only after she 
had experienced the other types of ecstasy. 

Lastly, St. Teresa speaks of the wound of love, which dosely resembles the ecstatic impulse. It is 
not a guestion of physical pain, although it may result in severe bodily pain after the experience 
has passed. The interior sensation is like that of a fiery arrow shot into the soul, and the sudden 
impact may make the individual cry out when it happens. Y et the wound is one of such sweet 
delight that the soul would like it to continue. The experience itself may be of brief duration, or it 
may last several hours. The faculties of the soul are inactive as long as it lasts, and there is the 
usual drop in body temperature and slowness of pulse, but no bodily rigidity or suspended 
animation, though freguently the experience terminates in a trne trance or a vision. 

The effects of the wound of love are described by St. Teresa as follows: "These effects are 
desires for G od, so quick and subtle as to be indescribable. As the soul finds itself tied and bound 
so. that it cannot háve fruition of God as it would wish, it conceives a great hatred for the body 
.... It then sees how great was the evil that came to us through the sin of A dam. " (54) The soul 
loses all fear of any trials and sufferings that may come to it; it has far more contempt for the 
world than previously; it is much more detached from created things; and it has a holý horror of 

The spirituál betrothal or covenant between God and the soul occurs during an ecstatic union 
with God. In this ecstasy, says St. Teresa, "the soul has nevěr before been so fully awake to the 
things of God or had such light or such knowledge of His Majesty."[55) The spirituál betrothal, 
as its name indicates, is essentiaHy a premise of marriage, an espousal. It may be accompanied 
by a vision of Christ; the bestowal of a symbolic ring, the exchange of hearts, or a locution in 
which Christ formally espouses himself to the soul. The spirituál betrothal is the high point of the 
prayer of conforming union and at the samé time the transition to mystical marriage. Father 
Marie Eugene states that in the three periods or phases that precede mystical marriage the first is 
one of preliminary mortifications, the second is the passive purgation of the spirit, and the third 
is the divine touches or visits in which occurs the spirituál betrothal .(56) Thus, the spirituál 
betrothal is a passage from the passive purgation of the spirit to the perfect union of the mystical 

Prayer of Transforming Union 

The last grade of prayer is the transforming union, identified by many mystics as the spirituál 
marriage. It constitutes the seventh mansions of The Interior Castle of St. Teresa and is the 
highest degree of perfection that one can attain in this life. It is, therefore, a přelude to the 
beatific life of glory. This statě is nothing less than a transformation into God, and St. John of the 
Cross does not hesitate to use such expressions as "transformed into God by love," "God of God 
by participation," and "more divine than human." (57) Such expressions may seem daring and 
even excessive when applied to the spirituál life of the soul, but they are fully justified by a 
usage that goes back to St. John, St. Paul, and the Fathers of the Church, especially the Eastem 
Church. St. John of the Cross says of this grade of prayer: 

There is as great a difference between these states as there is between betrothal and 
marriage. For in betrothal there is only a consent by agreement, and a unity of will 
between the two parties, and the jewels and the adornment of the bride-to-be, given her 
graciously by the bridegroom. But in marriage there is likewise communication between 
the persons, and union. (58) 

St. Teresa says practically the samé thing: 

There is the samé difference between the spirituál betrothal and the spirituál marriage as 
there is between two betrothed persons, and two who are united so that they cannot be 
separated anymore.(59) 

In this grade of prayer there is a total transformation of the soul into the Beloved. The soul has 
entered into its very center, so to speak, which is the throne room of the interior castle where the 
Trinity dwells through grace. There God and the soul give themselves to each other in the 

consummation of divine love, so far as is possible in the present life. There is no more ecstasy, 
for the soul has now been strengthened to receive the full power of love, but in the brightness of 
an intellectual vision the soul experiences the Trinity with vivid awareness. 

It sees these three Persons individually and yet, by a wonderful kind of knowledge which 
is given to it, the soul realizes that most certainly and truly all these three Persons are one 
substance and one power and one knowledge and one God alone; so that what we hold by 
faith the soul may be said here to grasp by sight, although nothing is seen by the eyes, 
either of the body or the soul, for it is no imaginative vision. Here all three Persons 
communicate themselves to the soul and speak to the soul and explain to it those words 
which the Gospel attributes to the Lord, námely, that he and the Father and the Holý 
Spirit will come to dwell with the soul which loves him and keeps his 
commandments. (60) 

We can distinguish three elements in this loftiest degree of the prayer of union: transformation in 
God, mutual surrender, and the permanent union of love. As St. John of the Cross states: 

The soul becomes brilliant and transformed in God, and God communicates to the soul 
his supematural being to such an extent that the soul appears to be God and to háve all 
that God has. Such a union is effected when God grants to the soul this supematural 
mercy; as a result of which all the things of God and the soul are one in a participated 
transformation. The soul seems to be more God than soul and is truly God by 
participation, although it is true that its being, so distinct by nature, is possessed by the 
soul as something distinct from the being of God, as it was formerly, even though 
transformed, just as the window is distinct from the ray of light which illumines it. (61) 

As to the mutual surrender, it is a natural conseguence of the transforming union just described. 
Between God and the soul there are a perfect communication and the mutual gift of šelf, for 
which reason the prayer of transforming union is called a spirituál marriage. Lastly, St. Teresa 
teaches that in this grade of prayer, unlike the grades that preceded it, there is a permanency of 
union and love. 

Concomitant with the permanent union of love is the soul's confirmation in grace. St. John of the 
Cross maintains that the transforming union nevěr falters and the soul is confirmed in grace, (62) 
but St. Teresa wams that as long as we are in this world we must walk with caution, lest we 
offend God. (63) However, the apparent contradiction is readily resolved when we say that 
confirmation in grace does not mean intrinsic impeccability, for the Church teaches that it is an 
impossibility in this life. Nor is it a guestion of avoiding all venial sins in this life, for that would 
reguire a speciál privilege of grace as was bestowed on the Virgin Mary. Conseguently, 
confirmation in grace must be understood as the speciál grace and assistance from God to avoid 
all mortal sins and thus háve moral certitude of salvation. 

Effects of Transforming Union 

Perhaps no one has described as clearly as St. Teresa the marvelous effects produced in the soul 
by the transforming union or mystical marriage. We shall summarize her description of these 
effects as given in her Interior Castle, Seventh Mansions, Chapter 3: 

1. A forgetfulness of šelf so complete that it seems as if the soul no longer existed. There is no 

longer any knowledge or remembrance of heaven or life or honor as regards the soul, so 
completely is it absorbed in seeking the honor of God. The soul lives in a statě of forgetfulness 
so that it has no desire whatever in regard to šelf, but desires only to do what it can do to promote 
the glory of God, and forthis it would gladly lay down its life. 

2. A great desire to suffer, but now the desire does not disturb the soul as it did previously. So 
great is the soul's longing that the will of God be doně in it that it accepts whatever God wills as 
the best for it. If he sends suffering, well and good; if not the soul does not worry or fret about it 
as it did previously. 

3. Joy in persecution. When the soul is persecuted, it experiences great interior joy and much 
more peace than formerly. It bears no enmity toward those who treat it badly or desire to do so. 
Rather, it conceives a speciál love for such persons, and if it were to see them in some affliction 
it would be deeply grieved and would do all in its power to relieve them. It loves to commend 
such persons to God, and would rejoice at relinguishing some of the favors it receives from God 
if it could bestow them on its enemies, and thus perhaps prevent them from offending God. 

4. Desire to serve God. Whereas the soul formerly suffered because of its longing to die and to 
be with God, it now experiences a strong desire to serve God and to help any soul that it can. 
Indeed, it now desires not to die but to live for many years and to suffer the most severe trials if 
in this way it can be a means whereby God is praised. Its conception of glory is now connected 
in some way with helping Christ, especially when it sees how often people offend him and how 
few there are who are truly concemed about his honor. 

5. Detachmentfrom everything created. The desires of the soul are no longer for consolations 
because the soul realizes that now the Lord himself dwells within it. As a result, the soul 
experiences a marked detachment from everything, and a desire to be alone or to be occupied 
with something that will be beneficial to the soul. There is no more aridity or interior trial, but 
only a constant recollection in God and a tender love for him. There is no fear that this period of 
tranguillity may be caused by the devil, because the soul has an unwavering certitude that it 
comes from God. This experience takés pláce in the very center of the soul and in the highest 
faculty, into which the devil cannot enter. 

6. Absence ofecstasies. Upon reaching this statě, the soul has no more raptures, or very seldom. 
The great weakness that formerly was the occasion for raptures has now given pláce to a great 
strength granted by God. Nevertheless, the soul walks with great care and still does all in its 
power to strengthen itself with the help of Goďs grace. Indeed, the more it is favored by God, the 
more cautious it becomes and the more aware of its own littleness and humility. 

Ideál of Christian Perfection 

Such is the bittersweet path that leads to the heights of contemplative prayer and the 
transforming union. It is the sublime ideál of Christian perfection, and it is offered to all souls in 
grace. When J ešus pronounced the precept: "Y ou must be made perfect as your heavenly Father 
is perfect" (Matt. 5:48), he was speaking to all souls without exception. The Christian life, if it is 
developed according to the supematural powers that are inherent in it, will lead to the 
transforming union of charity, which is in turn the přelude to the beatific vision. 

The highest perfection consists not in interior favors or in great raptures or in visions or 

in the spirit of prophecy, but in the bringing of our wills so dosely into conforaiity with 
ťhe will of God that, as soon as we realize he wills anything, we desire it ourselves with 
all our might, and také the bitter with the sweet, knowing that to be His Majesty 's 


Letterof March 7, 1914, cited by J. de Guibert, S. J., Documenta ecclesiastica christianae 
perfectfonis studium spectantia (Róme: Gregorianum, 1931), n. 636. 

Summa theologiae, Ila-IIae, g. 83, a. 12. 

St. Teresa, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1946), 
First Mansions, Book I, Chap. 7. St. Thomas teaches the samé doctrine in more technical 
language in Summa theologiae, Ila-IIae, g. 83, a. 13. 

Má., Fourth Mansions, Book I, Chap. 7. 

For detailed explanations, Cf. Methods ofMental Prayer by Cardinal Lercaro (Westminster, 
Md.: Newman, 1957). 

St. Ignatius composed at least six methods of meditation, as can be seen in his Spirituál 

Summa theologiae, Ila-IIae, g. 83, a. 14. 

SeeT/ieLí/e, Chaps. 13-14. 

Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night ofthe Soul, trans. E. Allison Peers (Westminster, 
Md.: Newman, 1957), Book I, Chap. 6. 

The Interior Castle, Seventh Mansions, Chap. 4. 

Cf. P. Pourrat, S. S., Christian Spirituality trans. W. Mitchell and S. Jacgues (Westminster, 
Md.: Newman, 1953), IV, 129. 

Cf. The Way ofPerfection, Chaps. 28-29; The Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, Chap. 3. 

Cf. The Living Fláme o f Love, Chap. 3. 

The Dark Night, Book II, Chap. 6, n. 1. 

Summa theologiae, Ila-IIae, g. 52, a. 2, ad 1. 

Cf. Denz.-Schón. 1533; 1540; 1563; 156546; 1573. 

The Interior Castle, Sixth Mansions, Chap. 2, n. 4. 

Cf. The Life, Chaps. 18-20. 

St. Teresa speaks emphatically on this point; Cf. The Way ofPerfection, Chap. 36; The 
Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, Chap. 3. 

Cf. The Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, Chap. 3. 


Cf. The Way ofPerfection, Chap. 31, n. 5. 

Spirituál Relations, V; Cf. The Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, Chap. 2, and The Way of 
Perfection, Chap. 31. 

Cf. The Life, Chap. 16; TheFoundations, Chap. 6; Spirituál Relations, V; The Interior Castle, 
Fourth Mansions. Since The Interior Castle is the most mature work o St. Teresa, we 
consider that it contains her definitivě teaching. 

Cf. The Life, Chap. 16. 

Ibid., Chap. 16. 

Cf. Ibid., Chap. 17; The Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, Chap. 1. 

Cf. The Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, Chap. 3. 

Cf. The Life, Chap. 15. 

Cf. The Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, Chap. 3. 

The Life, Chap. 17; d. also The Interior Castle, Fifth Mansions, Chap. 1. 

Cf. The Interior Castle, Fifth Mansions, Chap. 1. 

Cf. The Life, Chap. 18. 

Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, BooklI, Chap. 32; TheDarkNight, 
BooklI, Chap. 23; The Living Fláme ofLove, Chap. 2; Spirituál Canticle Stanzas 1, 7; St. 
Teresa of A vila, Chap. 29; Spirituál Relations, V. 

Cf. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, BooklI, Chap. 32. 


Cf. The Spirituál Canticle, Stanza 1. 

For the distinction between these two phenomena, Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Spirituál 
Canticle, Stanza 7, and The Living Fláme ofLove, Chap. 2. 

St. Teresa states in The Interior Castle, Sixth Mansions, Chap. 4: "This (sixth mansion) and 
the last (seventh mansion) might be fused in one; there is no closed dooř to separate the 
one from the other." Again, in Seventh Mansions, Chap. 2, she says tha there is no need 
of a dooř by which to pass on to spirituál marriage from betrothal. 

The Interior Castle, Fifth Mansions, Chap. 2. 

St. Teresa's description of the prayer of conforming union is the longest section eleven 
chapters of The Interior Castle. It is also in that section that she discusses the 
extraordinary mystical phenomena that sometimes accompany the last two grades of 
mystical prayer. 

The Spirituál Canticle, Stanza 12, n. 69; Cf. The Living Fláme, Stanza 3. 

The Interior Castle, Sixth Mansions, Chap. 4. 

The Spirituál Canticle, Stanza 12. 

Natural ecstasy can be divided into four types: fainting, somnambulism, hypnotic trance, and 
hysterical seizure. Diabolical ecstasy is a form of diabolical obsession. 

See The Dark Night, Book II, Chaps. 1 and 2; The Spirituál Canticle, Stanzas 13 and 14. 

Some authors classify ecstasy as a concomitant phenomenon of the mystical life and rapture 
or flight of the spirit as an extraordinary phenomenon. Following the teaching of St. 
Teresa and St. John of the Cross, we prefer to classify rapture as a more intense and 
vehement type of ecstasy. 

Cf. The Interior Castle, Sixth Mansions, where St. Teresa describes in great detail the effects 
of ecstasy and rapture. 

The Life, Chap. 20; Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Spirituál Canticle, Stanzas 12 and 13. St. 
Teresa also states in The Spirituál Relations, 5: "Raptures and suspensions of the 
faculties, in my opinion, are one and the samé thing; I generally describe them as 
suspension, so as not to use the word rapture, which frightens people." 

The Spirituál Relations, V. 



Ibid.; Cf. The Interior Castle, Sixth Mansions, Chap. 4; The Life, Chap. 20. 

The Spirituál Relations, V. 

Ibid., Chap. 4. 

Marie-Eugene, lama Daughter ofthe Church, trans. M. Venda Clare (Notre Dáme, Ind.: 
Fides, 1955), p. 536. 

Cf. TheAscent ofMount Carmel, Stanza 2; The Spirituál Canticle, Stanza 39; The Dark 
Night, Stanza 2. 

The Living Fláme, Stanza 3. 

The Interior Castle, Seventh Mansions, Chap. 2. 

St. Teresa, op. cit., Seventh Mansions, Chap. 1. This does not mean that an intellectual vision 
of the Trinity is a concomitant phenomenon of the transforming union and that every soul 
attaining this statě would receive such a vision. St. Teresa is describing her own 
experience, though other mystics had the samé experience. 

The Ascent ofMount Carmel, BooklI, Chap. 5. 

Cf. The Spirituál Canticle, Stanza 22. 

See The Interior Castle, Seventh Mansions, Chaps. 2 and 4. 

St. Teresa, Book ofFoundations, Chap. 5. 

Aids to Spirituál Growťh 

Although these aids to spirituál growth are not all of egual value, they do mutually assist one 
another. They are only secondary means of growth in perfection, however, and therefore no one 
of them should be ušed to the exclusion of the basic and fundamental means already discussed. 

The Presence of G od 

The practice of the presence of God consists in recalling as freguently as possible that G od is 
present in all places, especially in the depth of the just soul, and conseguently in doing all things 
in the sight of God. Sacred Scripture and tradition are unanimous in stressing the importance and 
sanctifying effect of the practice of the presence of God. "Walk in my presence and be 
blameless," God said to Abraham (Gen. 17:1). The one necessarily follows from the other, for if 
we are convinced that God sees us, we will endeavor to avoid sin and will strive to be as 
recollected as possible in Goďs presence. If pro perly ušed, this spirituál practice will keep the 
soul in a spirit of prayer and will lead it to intimate union with God. St. Francis de Sales goes so 
far as to say that interior recollection accompanied by pious ejaculations can supply for any 
pious practice and that its absence cannot be remedied by any other.(l) 

It is a theological fact that we are constantly in Goďs presence, which admits of five distinct 
types. The presence of immensity flows from the divine attribute of the samé name; it signifies 
that God is truly present to all things, and this in a threefold mannen by essence, presence, and 
power. He is present by essence so far as he gives and preserves the existence of all things 
(creation and conservation), so that nothing could exist or continue to exist without Goďs 
presence. He is present by presence in the sense that absolutely nothing escapes his gáze, but all 
things are naked and open to his eyes. He is present by power in the sense that all things are 
subject to his power. With one word he creates; with one word he could annihilate whatever he 
has created. 

Goďs presence by indwelling is a speciál type of presence effected through grace and the 
operations flowing from grace, in virtue of which God is present to the just soul as a friend and a 
father, enabling the soul to share in his own divine life. 

Goďs sacramental presence is that which Christ enjoys in the Eucharist, so that he is truly 
present under the appearance of bread and wine. 

Goďs personál or hypostatic presence is properte Christ the Second Person of the Trinity, so 
that the humanity of Christ subsists in the Person of the Word. 

Goďs presence by manifestation signifies that which is properte him in heaven. So far as we are 
concemed, however, we shall be aware of this manifestation only when we enjoy the beatific 

Of these five types of presence, those which most directly affect the practice of the presence of 
God are the first two, námely, the presence of immensity, and the presence of indwelling. The 
first is verified of the soul at all times and under all conditions, even if the soul should be in the 
statě of mortal sin. The second is found only in souls in the statě of grace. 

The practice of the presence of God has several conseguences of great importance for the 
spirituál life. The following are the principál ones: 

1. It reminds us to avoid even the slightest deliberate fault. If we are careful of our 
behavior in the presence of superiors or persons of dignity lest we offend them, how 
much more so in the presence of God, who sees not only our extemal actions but also our 
interior thoughts and movements. 

2. It impels us to do all things with the greatest possible perfection. This is a natural 
conseguence of love, especially if we are performing an action in the very presence of the 
one we love. Faithful observance of this norm is sufficient to lead a soul to the heights of 
sanctity. Although it is true that God does not demand perfection of us here and now, he 
does expect us to do the best we can at a given time. 

3.1tenables usto observe modestyin our deportment at all times. Whetheraloneorwith 
others, those who are constantly aware of Goďs presence will maintain a sense of 
Christian dignity in all their actions and in their very bearing. To this end, it is important 
that souls in the statě of grace be mindful of the indwelling of the Trinity. 

4. It increases ourfortitude in the struggles ofthe Christian life. It is much more difficult 
to overcome obstacles and to suffer trials when we are alone. But God is always with us 
to animate our courage and give us the positive assistance of his grace. 

There are two principál methods of practicing the presence of God. The first consists in a kind of 
exterior representation by which we visualize God as ever present to us. We do not see him, but 
he is really there, and we cannot do anything that escapes his divine gáze. This method of 
practicing the presence of God is greatly aided by the use of crucifixes and other religious 
symbols placed in a prominent pláce. 

The second method is that of interior recollection. It reguires that one should live in an 
ever-increasing awareness of Goďs presence in the soul, whether by immensity or by the 
indwelling. The result of this method is a more profound understanding of what Jesus meant 
when he said: "The kingdom of God is within you." When properly ušed, interior recollection 
serveš to unitě the practice of the presence of God with a deep and intimate union with God. It is 

also, therefore, one of the necessary conditions for cultivating a deep and abiding spirit of prayer. 

Other methods for practicing the presence of God háve been pro posed by various writers: to see 
the nand of God in all the events of one's life, whether adverse or prosperous; to see God in all 
creatures; to see God in the person of one's superior and in one's neighbor. One should use the 
method that is most helpful in cultivating the practice of the presence of God. 

Examination of Conscience 

As its name indicates, the examination of conscience is an investigation of one's conscience in 
order to discoverthe good or evil acts one has performed, and especially to verify one's basic 
attitude regarding God and personál sanctification. We are not referring to the examination of 
conscience made prior to confession, which is simply a review and enumeration of one's sins, but 
of an examination made in view of one's progress in holiness. It should také into account the 
strength or weakness of one's virtues, as well as the number and freguency of one's sins. To pláce 
too great an emphasis on one's failings may result in meticulosity, anxiety, discouragement, and 
even scrupulosity. 

Spirituál writers are unanimous in stressing the importance of the examination of conscience as a 
spirituál exercise. Outstanding among them, of course, is St. Ignatius Loyola, who for a long 
time ušed no other methods of spirituál formation for his companions but the examination of 
conscience and the freguent reception of the sacraments. 

St. Ignatius distinguishes two types of examination: generál and particular.{2) The first is an 
overall view of one's spirituál statě and those things that would contribute to the improvement of 
one's spirituál life. The second is focused particularly on some definite vice one is trying to 
eliminate or some virtue one is trying to cultivate. 

The particular examen has three steps or points. First on arising in the morning, one resolves to 
correct the particular fault one is trying to eliminate, or to avoid failure in the practice of the 
particular virtue one is trying to cultivate. Secondly, after the noon meal one makes an 
examination of the faults committed during the moming and resolves to avoid them in the 
afternoon. Thirdly, after the evening meal one repeats the examination and resolution as at noon. 

The generál examination pro posed by St. Ignatius has five points: (1) give thanks to God for 
benefits received; (2) beg the grace to k know one's sins and to rid oneself of them; (3) make a 
detailed examination, hour by hour, of one's thoughts, words, and deeds; (4) beg pardon of God; 
(5) resolve to amend one's life and recite the Our Father. The generál examen is made once a 
day, before retiring. 

In order to obtain the maximum benefit from the examination of conscience, it is necessary to 
know how to practice it. The following a, extract provides a more detailed explanation of the 
Ignatian method of examination: 

1. One's spirituál exercises should be unified; otherwise they will not exert their influence 
throughout the day. The examination of conscience should be the bond of union for all of 
one's spirituál exercises and the great means of achieving unity in one's spirituál life. 

2. Philosophy teaches us that acts are transitory, but habits are permanent. Hence we 

should especially examine our habits. The mere knowledge of our acts will not give us an 
intimate knowledge of our souls. What resides in the sanctuary of conscience is not our 
acts, which háve already passed away, but our habits or dispositions of soul. If we háve 
succeeded in knowing them, we háve verified the trne statě of our souls, but not 

3. In order to know our souls, it is necessary to ask ourselves this simple guestion: 
"Where is my heart" Immediately we shall find the answerwithin ourselves. The guestion 
makes us look into the intimate depths of the soul, and immediately the salient point 
stands out. This is an intuitive function, and it can be repeated many times during the day. 
There is no need for investigations, feats of memory, mathematical calculations. It is 
simply a rapid, all-inclusive glance that tells us at once the statě of our souls. That is the 
mainspring of all our actions, and that is what must be corrected and made right if all else 
in our life is to go well. 

4. The details and exact number of the extemal manifestations of our fundamental 
disposition of soul are of least importance. We don't waste time cutting the branches from 
a tree when we are going to cut down the whole tree. It is true that external acts reveal the 
intemal condition, but we can discover this condition by looking at it directly instead of 
searching for it in the forest of external acts. 

5. But if we attend exclusively to the principál interior disposition, shall we not lose sight 
of the other dispositions of soul, thus allowing them to grow in the darkness without 
paying any attention to them? There is no danger of this. The other dispositions of soul 
cannot emerge if one's whole soul is directed to G od as a result of the examination. 
Moreover, the dominant inclination or disposition of soul is not always the samé; one's 
defects are manifested according to circumstances, and as soon as a disposition comes to 
the fóre, the examination of conscience overcomes and controls it. 

6. But can we rest content with this glance? Does everything consist in seeing? By no 
means. It is necessary to rectify all disorders and to foster all good movements and 
inclinations. The glance at one's statě of soul should lead to contrition and resolution. 
Contrition corrects evil, and resolution affirms good. Contrition looks to the past, and 
resolution prepares for the future. The resolution should be a particular one that will 
touch the speciál point dominating one's soul. It should pláce our hearts completely in the 
presence of G od. 

7. There are, therefore, three steps in the examination of conscience: a glance at one's 
statě of soul, contrition, and resolution. All three can be utilized in the generál and 
particular examens of which St. Ignatius speaks. In the generál examen, the glance 
embraces one's predominant disposition throughout the day. Then it can extend to the 
secondary dispositions that háve been manifested but háve not been predominant. The 
particular examen is easier. As a matter of fact, it has already been doně when one 
discovers one's fundamental predominant disposition of soul. The morning examen 
should be ušed to assure one's proper orientation during the day and the avoidance of the 
evils to which one is most exposed. 

8. In this way, the examination of conscience will give unity and consistency to all of 

one's spirituál life. By means of it one can avoid dangers and correct defects. It serveš to 
reveal one's interior statě, so that one cannot remain in evil but is obliged to advance in 

There is no doubt that the faithful practice of examination of conscience will háve profound 
effects on one's spirituál life. But in this, as in so many things, its efficacy depends to a great 
extent on perseverance. To omit the examination freguently or to make it in a purely mechanical 
fashion is to render it absolutely sterile. The soul that earnestly desires to become holý must be 
convinced that many of the other means of sanctification are frustrated if one does not make the 
daily examination of conscience. 

The Desire for Perfection 

Of all the psychological factors that play a part in our spirituál life, a prominent pláce must be 
given to the sincere desire for attaining perfection. It is said that when St. Thomas Aguinas was 
asked by one. of his sisters what she should do to reach sanctity, he answered her in one brief 
sentence: "Will it." 

The desire for perfection is an act of the will, under the influence of grace, which aspires 
unceasingly to spirituál growth until one reaches sanctity. It is under the influence of grace 
because such a desire is manifestly supernatural and surpasses the exigencies and tendencies of 
pure nature. It must be constant in its aspiration for ever greater perfection, and it must not stop 
at any intermediate degree but must aspire to the heights of sanctity. 

Sanctity is the supreme good we can attain in this life. By its very nature it is something 
infinitely desirable, but since it is also an arduous and difficult good, it is impossible to tend 
toward it efficaciously without the strong impulse of a will that is determined to attain it at any 
cost. St. Teresa of A vila considers it of decisive importance "to háve a great and very determined 
resolve not to stop until one reaches it,"{3) without reckoning the difficulties along the way, the 
criticism of those around us, the lack of health, or the disdain of the world. Therefore, only 
resolute and energetic souls, with the help of divine grace, will scale the heights of perfection. 

In order that it will possess the greatest possible sanctifying efficacy, the desire for perfection 
should háve the following gualities: 

1. It should be supernatural, that is, should flow from grace and be directed to the greater 
glory of God. This means that the desire for perfection is a gift of God, for which we 
should petition humbly and perseveringly until we obtain it. "Lord, make me want to love 

2. íř should be profoundly humble, without reliance entirely on our own strength, but 
placing our trust in him from whom all graces flow. Nor should we aspire to sanctity for 
any other motive than to love and glorify God. In the beginning, it is difficult to avoid 
every trace of presumption and egoism, but it is necessary to be constantly purifying 
one's intention and perfecting one's motives until they are directed only to the glory of 

3. It should be filled with confidence. Of ourselves we can do nothing, but all things are 
possible in him who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). Countless souls abandon the road to 

perf ection in the face of obstacles because, becoming discouraged and lacking confidence 
in God, they think that sanctity is not for them. Only those who persevere in špite of 
hardships will receive the crown of victory. ' 

4. It should be the predominant desire. All other goods must be subordinated to this 
supreme good. Hence the desire for perfection is not simply one among many, but it must 
be the fundamental desire dominating one's entire life. Those who wish to become saints 
must dedicate themselves to this task professionally, and this reguires that they put aside 
anything that may prove an impediment. Many souls háve failed in the. pursuit of sanctity 
because they háve fluctuated between the things of God and the things of the world. 

5. It should be constant. Numerous souls, on the occasion of some great event, such as 
the termination of a retreat, reception of the religious hábit or sacred orders, or profession 
of vows, experience a great spirituál impulse, as a result of which they resolve to dedicate 
themselves henceforth to the pursuit of sanctity. But they weary of the pursuit when they 
experience difficulties, and they either abandon the road to sanctity, or the desire 
becomes cool. 

Or sometimes they grant themselves vacations or pauses, under the pretext of resting a 
while to recover their strength. This is a great mistake because the soul not only does not 
gain any strength but also is greatly weakened. Later, when it wishes to renew its efforts, 
a greater effort is reguired to recapture the spirituál gains previously made. All this could 
háve been avoided if the desire for perfection had remained constant, without undue 
violence or extremes, but also without respite or weakness. 

6. It should be practical and efficacious. This is not a guestion of wishful thinking but of 
a definite determination that must be put into practice here and now, using all the means 
at one's disposal for attaining perfection. It is easy to imagine that one has a desire for 
perfection because of occasional good intentions or certain noble sentiments experienced 
during prayer. 

But a desire is efficacious only when it is put into execution. To desire perfection in a 
theoretical way and to postpone one's efforts until some later dáte is to live in an illusion. 
The individual passes from one delay to another, and life passes on, so that the person 
runs the risk of appearing before God with empty hands. 

Since the desire for perfection is of such great importance in the struggle for holiness, one should 
notě carefully the following means for arousing this desire: 

1. To beg for it incessantly from God. Since the desire is supernatural, it can come to us 
only from above. 

2. To renew itfrequently. It should be renewed daily at the most solemn moment of the 
day, námely, at the moment of Communion; at other times, on principál feasts, the 
monthly day of recollection, during the annual retreat, on speciál anniversaries. 

3. To meditate frequently on the motives that inspire this desire. The principál motives 
are the following: (a) our obligation to strive for perfection, (b) consciousness that this is 
the greatest good we can seek in this life; (c) awareness of the danger we risk if we do not 

tnily strive to sanctify ourselves; (d) recognition of the fact that the perf ect imitation of 
Christ demands perfection and sanctity. 

C onformity to G oďs Will 

Perf ect conformity to the divine will is a most efficacious means of sanctification. St. Teresa of 
A vila says in this regard that those who begin the life of prayer must work and resolve and 
dispose themselves with as much diligence as possible to make their will conformable to that of 
God; in this consists the greatest perfection that can be attained on the spirituál wav.(4) 

Conformity to the will of God consists in a loving, total, and intimate submission and harmony 
of our will with that of God in everything he disposes or permits in our regard. When it reaches a 
perfect statě it is known by the name of holý abandonment to the will ofGod; in its less perfect 
statě it is called simply Christian resignation. 

In order to understand this practice in an orthodox sense, it is necessary to keep in mind certain 
doctrinal points. In the first pláce, sanctity is the result of the action of God and the free 
cooperation of man. God is the director of the work of our sanctification, and therefore nothing 
should be doně that is not in conformity with his plans arid under the impulse of his grace. 

The basis of abandonment to the will of God is charity. The reason is that love unites the will of 
the lover to the will of the beloved, and perfect abandonment reguires the complete surrender of 
our own will to that of God. Perfect abandonment is found only in souls that are far advanced in 

In order to attain this total abandonment the following theological points should be meditated 
upon freguently: 

1. Nothing happens that has not been foreseen by God from all eternity and willed or 
permitted by nim. 

2. God could not will anything that is not in conformity with the purpose for which he 
created all things, námely, his own external glory. 

3. All things contribute in some way to the good of those who love God and persevere in 
his love (Rom. 8:28). 

4. Abandonment to the will of - God does not excuse anyone; from fulfilling the divine 
will of expression by obeying the precepts and commands of God, and then submitting 
himself or herself as regards all things else to the divine will of good pleasure, without 
any anxiety. 

From what has already been said, it should be evident that abandonment to the will of God is not 
only an excellent spirituál practice but also a necessary one for the attainment of sanctity. Its 
excellence lies in its incomparable efficacy for removing the obstacles that impede the action of 
grace, for making one practice the virtues as perfectly as possible, and for establishing the 
absolute dominion of God over our will. 

The necessity of practicing abandonment to the will of God is based upon the following pointe: 

1. divine right. As Goďs creatures, we are also his servante. He created us, he conserves 
us, he redeemed us, he has made us for himself. We do not belong to ourselves, but we 
are Goďs (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19). We are also his children and friends through grace, but 
children should be subject to their father, and friends should be of one mind and one 

2. Our utility. Abandonment to Goďs will has a great sanctifying efficacy, and our 
sanctification is the greatest good we could seek in this world. 

3. The example ofChrist. All during his life on earth Christ fulfilled the will of his 
heavenly Father. He proclaimed this by his actions and openly professed it in words. His 
last words from the Cross were a submission and yielding of his whole being to the hands 
of his Father. Mary, too, handmaid of the Lord, practiced this total abandonment in 
imitation of her Son. 

Having traced the generál lineš of the practice of abandonment to the will of God, we shall now 
offer some suggestions regarding the method of conforming to Goďs Will in the circumstances 
of daily life. 

1. Whatever God positively and directly wills is best for us, even if for the time being it 
causes pain and suffering. In the face of incurable sickness or the death of loved ones, the 
only Christian attitude is: "Thy will be doně." And if our love of God is strong enough to 
enable us to rise above simple resignation, and through our pain or sorrow give thanks to 
God, we shall háve reached a high degree of abandonment to the will of God. 

2. God nevěr wills positively and directly that which refers to evil, which God cannot will 
as such. But in his infinite goodness and wisdom, God knows how to convert into good 
the evil he permite, and that is why he permite it. Hence we manifest a lamentable 
shortsightedness when, in the evils God permite to happen to us, we do not raise our eyes 
to heaven to adore God, who permite these things for our greater good. We must, 
therefore, strive to see in the injustice of men the justice of God, which punishes us for 
our sins, and even his mercy, which gives us an opportunity to make satisfaction for 

3. It is necessary to conform ourselves to the will of God as known through his precepte 
and laws. It would be a grave error to attempt to please God with works freely selected by 
ourselves, and then disregard the laws he has imposed on us directly or through his 
representatives. The first things that we should observe conscientiously are Goďs 
commandmente, the laws of the Church, the commands of superiors, and the duties of our 
statě in life. "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord, 1 shall enter the kingdom of 
heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). 

4. The first and most basic step toward conformity of one's will with that of God is to 
avoid most carefully all sin, however small. 

But what is to be doně if we fall into a grave sin? It is necessary to distinguish two 
aspecte of the sin: the offense against God and the humiliation of the sinner. The first 

must be rejected completely, and one can nevěr repent of it sufficiently. The second can 
be accepted wiťh penitence and gratitude because one's humiliation through sin is a 
means of learning the significance of Goďs law (cf. Ps. 118:71). 

5. The soul that wishes to attain perfect abandonment to the will of God must be disposed 
to practice the evangelical counsels. Religious make a vow to practice certain counsels in 
their daily life; lay persons are not called upon to do this, but they should observe the 
spirit of the counsels and carry them out in practice when the duties of their statě in life 
permit. However, it would be an error for the laity gratuitously, to assume a manner of 
life proper to religious; the first duty of the laity, whether married or living singly in the 
world, is to fulfill the duties imposed by their particularvocation. 

We do not know what God has decreed for our future, but we do know some things for certain: 
that the will of God is the supreme cause of all things; that the divine will is essentially good and 
beneficent; that all things, whether adverse or prosperous, contribute to the good of those who 
love God. Therefore, we should cultivate a holý indifference, not preferring health to sickness, 
wealth to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life, and so likewise with everything 
else, but that we desire and choose that which best leads us to the end for which we were created. 

If the divine will is the supreme cause of everything that happens, and if the divine will is 
infinitely good, holý, wise, and powerful, then the more our wills conform to that of God, the 
more certain we can be that nothing evil will befall us. The evils that God permits will contribute 
to our greater good if we know how to utilize them in the way God desires. 

But in order to understand the nature of holý indifference; the following principles should be 
kept in mind: 

1. The purpose of holý indifference is to give oneself completely to God and to become 
utterly detached from šelf. It is not a stoical indifference to whatever befalls us, but an 
efficacious means of uniting our wills to, that of God. 

2. This indifference applies only to the superior part of the soul, for it would be 
impossible to demand of our lower faculties that they remain insensate and indifferent. 
Therefore one should not be disturbed if one experiences the repugnance or revolt of 
nature, so long as the will accepts sufferings and trials as coming from the hand of God. 

3. This indifference is not merely passive but truly active. In those instances in which the 
divine will is made manifest, the human will rushes forth to obey with generosity; in 
those cases in which the divine will is not yet manifested, the human will is perfectly 
disposed to accept and fulfill whatever God decrees as soon as his will becomes manifest. 

Would it be permissible to reach such a point of indifference that one is disinterested in 
one's own salvation? By no means; God wills that all be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4), and he 
permits those to be condemned who háve deliberately turned away from him and háve 
died unrepentant. It is not that they could not háve been saved, but they would not be 
saved. Hence to renounce one's own salvation under the pretext of practicing perfect 
abandonment to Goďs will would be in contradiction to Goďs will, as well as a violation 
of man's innate desire for perfect happiness. Moreover, since the glory of God is the 
prime motive for our existence, we should positively seek our own salvation, which is the 

perfect way in which we give glory to God. 

The blessings of complete abandonment to Goďs will are innumerable. In addition to those 
already mentioned, the following should be noted: 

1. It gives a sweet intimacy with God, such as a child experiences with its mother. 

2. The soul travels with simplicity and freedom, desiring only what God wills. 

3. The soul remains constant and serene in all events of life because God wills or permits 

4. The soul is filled with true joy that no one can destroy, because it wills whatever God 

5. One can expect a happy death if one remains faithful in abandonment to Goďs will. 

Fidelity toGrace 

Fidelity in generál signifies the faith and loyalty one person has for another. Fidelity to grace 
means loyalty or docility in following the inspirations of the Holý Spirit in any form in which 
they are manifested to us. 

Inspirations are the interior attractions, movements, feelings of remorse, orthe knowledge God 
causes in us, in order to arouse us and draw us to virtue and to good resolutions. Divine 
inspirations are produced in various ways. Even sinners receive them in order to be converted. 

The Holý Spirit works in us according to his will (cf. John 3:8). Sometimes he enlightens us, as 
when he gives us the knowledge by which we may resolve a doubt; at other times he moves us, 
as when we perform some good action we had already intended to do; but most often he both 
enlightens and moves us at the samé time. At times he inspires us in the midst of some work or 
even distraction, sometimes during prayer, at the times of Communion, or in moments of 
recollection and fervor. He rules and governs the adopted children of God in the ordinary events 
of daily life as well as in affairs of great importance. He does not always inspire us directly, 
however, but sometimes sends the inspirations through a secondary cause such as a good book, a 
sermon, or someone's good example. Nevertheless, in the last analysis the Holý Spirit is always 
the principál author of the inspiration. 

It would be impossible to insist too strongly on the importance and necessity of fidelity to grace 
in order to advance on the way of perfection. It is, in a certain sense, the fundamental problém of 
the Christian life because it determines whether one will make constant progress toward the 
heights of sanctity. Practically the only task of the spirituál director is to lead the soul to a most 
exguisite and constant fidelity to grace. Without this, all other methods are doomed to failure. 
The theological reason for this can be found in the divine economy of actual grace. 

Actual grace is necessary for every salutary act. Without actual grace it is impossible to perform 
the smallest supernatural action, even if the soul possesses sanctifying grace, the infused virtues, 
and the gifts of the Holý Spirit. But actual grace is continuously offered to us in the fulfillment of 

ťhe duties of the moment. That is not all. In the ordinary economy of divine providence, God 
subordinates consequent graces to those graces that háve previously been given. Therefore, 
infidelity to grace at a given time may deprive us of many other graces that God would háve 
given us if we had ušed the earlier graces. Only in etemity shall we see that a great number of 
frustrated saints were such because of their infidelity to actual grace. It should be noted that we 
are not here speaking of serious sins, which cause the loss of habitual grace, but of those venial 
sins, which frustrated the action of the Holý Spirit. 

The negative effects that follow infidelity to grace should be sufficient to impress upon the soul 
the importance of being faithful to the graces God gives, but it is also important that we 
understand the positive sanctifying value of fidelity to grace. We must rely on the inspirations 
and directions of the Holý Spirit if we are to purge ourselves of all evil and grow in goodness. 
Hence, we should strive to be so possessed by the Holý Spirit that he alone govems all our 
faculties and regulates all our interior and exterior movements. In this way we shall no longer 
live, but Christ will live in us, due to our faithful cooperation with the actual graces given us 
through the Holý Spirit. It may happen that an inspiration from God is met with repugnance, 
doubt, or difficulties, but it is necessary to overcome ourunruly nature and to follow at any cost 
the inspirations that come to us from God. We can nevěr reach perfection so long as we are 
governed and guided by a natural and human spirit because perfection requires that God should 
live in us and work through us according to his will. 

The inspiration of the Holý Spirit is to an act of virtue what temptation is to a sinful act. The 
Holý Spirit proposes the virtuous act to the intellect and .arouses the will; the just person accepts 
and approves the inspiration and then carries it out. Possessing in our souls the gifts of the Holý 
Spirit which are given in order to make us docile to the inspirations and movements of the Holý 
Spirit we may rightfully ask for these inspirations and expectthem. Indeed, the Veni Creator 
Spiritus is nothing other than a litany of petitions to the Holý Spirit asking him to grant us his 
inspirations and his graces. 

Three things are necessary for our response to the inspirations from the Holý Spirit: (1) attention 
to the inspirations; (2) discretion for distinguishing them from natural inclinations or movements 
from the devil; and (3) docility in carrying out the inspiration. 

1. Attention. We should consider frequently that the Holý Spirit dwells within us through 
sanctifying grace. If we were able to detach ourselves completely from all earthly things 
and withdraw to the silence and recollection of our own interior, we would undoubtedly 
hear the voice of God speaking within us. This is not a question of an extraordinary 
grace; it would be something completely normál and ordinary in the Christian life. Why 
then do we not hear the voice of the Holý Spirit In the first pláce, because of our habitual 
dissipation. God is within us, but we live outside ourselves. The Holý Spirit says that he 
will lead us to solitude and will speak there to our hearts (cf. Hos. 2:16). 

God does not choose to impose himself nor to také from us our own initiative. He does 
not force himself upon the soul; he does not enter if he is not wanted. And even if the 
soul is in the statě of grace and enjoys the indwelling of the Trinity, Goďs presence is 
silent and hidden until the soul itself turns to him with love and attention. 

Another reason why we do not hear the voice of God within us is our sensuality. The 

animal man, says St. Paul, does not perceive tne things of tne Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14). 
For that reason it is absolutely indispensable that we cultivate and preserve a spirit of 
mortification. Indeed, one of the first things that is lost by those who give themselves 
over to the things of the world, and especially to sensual delight, is the taste for prayer 
and the things of God. 

The third reason why we do not hear the voice of God is our own disordered affection. 
Even in seeking God, we may deceive ourselves and actuaUy seek ourselves. It is not at 
all unusual to find persons who are extemally very pious and observant in their religious 
duties, but inwardly filled with egoism and self-complacency. The will can easily deviate 
from God and seek the šelf as the object of love. It is easy to see, therefore, why those 
who seek themselves first and even subordinate God to themselves, hear only the voice 
of their own desires, while God remains silent. 

2. Discretion. The discernment of spirits is of great importance if we are to know for 
certain the spirit that moves us at a given moment. The following points will be of help in 
recognizing divine inspirations. 

(a) The devil nevěr inspires us to virtue, and neither does fallen human nature, as 
a rule, if it is a guestion of some virtuous act that is difficult. 

(b) God does not generally inspire us to perform actions not in keeping with our 
statě in life or particular vocation. In this respect we must be cautious lest we try 
to do what we personally wish to do, and then justify it by calling it an inspiration 
from God. 

(c) St. Francis de Sales maintains that one of the best signs of the goodness and 
authenticity of an inspiration, and especially of an extraordinary one, is the peace 
and tranguillity with which it is received, because God does not use violence but 
acts sweetly and gently. This is another way of saying not to presume that the 
inclination to perform some extraordinary action, such as changing one's vocation 
or statě in life, is an inspiration from God unless there are sufficiently grave 
reasons for making the change. If, on the other nand, a soul is upset and perturbed 
by what it considers to be an inspiration from God, it is not to be presumed that 
the inspiration in guestion is from God. 

(d) Those who claim to be acting by divine inspiration and refuse to obey their 
superiors are impostors, says St. Francis de Sales.[5) The first guestion a spirituál 
director should ask in cases of doubt is whether or 'not such individuals are 
obedient to the laws of God and the Church and the duties of their statě in life. 
The spirit of disobedience has been responsible for numerous apostates, heretics, 
and fraudulent mystics. 

(e) In the ordinary events of everyday life, it is not necessary to deliberate or seek 
counsel. As a rule, it suffices simply to choose that particular action that seems to 
be in conformity with the divine will, and not be troubled by any scruples of 
conscience. In cases of doubt conceming matters of greater importance, however, 
one should always consult a spirituál director, one's superiors, or someone who is 

able to make a prudent decision. 

3. Docility. This is a quality by which one follows the inspiration of grace promptly, 
wiťhout waiting for a second movement of grace. This, of course, applies only in those 
cases in which the divine inspiration is clear, because we háve already stated that in 
doubtful cases it is necessary to deliberate or to consult someone in authority. The soul 
should always be disposed to fulfill the will of God at any given moment. 

Cardinal Mercier advised persons to spend some time each day in complete recollection and to 
address the Holý Spirit in the following words: "O Holý Spirit soul of my soul, I adore you. 
Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Telí me what I ought to do. Give me your 
commands. I promise to submit myself to whateveryou ask of me and to accept whateveryou 
permit to happen to me. Grant only that I may know your holý will." 

Pian of Life 

The pian of life is a schedule of the occupations and practices of piety an individual should 
perform during the day. The advantage of some kind of pian or schedule is that it gives a 
constancy and regularity to one's efforts toward greater perfection. Without a schedule, one may 
lose much time, fall into a hábit of indecision, neglect duties or fulfill them carelessly, or develop 
the defect of inconstancy. If one has a fixed schedule of life, there is much less danger of 
vacillation and wasted time, of being caught unprepared by some unexpected event, and of 
falling away from the practices of piety that are necessary for the spirituál advancement of the 
individual. When one is faithful to a pian of life, it is much easier to supematuralize all the 
activities of daily life and to be attentive to the duty of the moment. 

However, the pian of life should be adapted prudently to one's particular vocation and duties of 
statě in life. A pian of life that would be suitable for several classes of persons would lose its 
effectiveness by being too generál. The requirements differ for persons in various vocations or 
states of life: the laity, diocesan priests, and persons in the consecrated life. 

The Laity 

Living as they do in the world, without a superior whom they are bound to obey in matters that 
touch their personál spirituál life, and without a rule to guide them in their efforts toward greater 
perfection, it is difficult for the laity to avoid the danger of extréme individualism in their 
practices of piety. They may preferto follow their own personál tastes and inclinations rather 
than select those exercises most beneficial to them. It should be strongly emphasized that, 
although the laity háve a great liberty as regards practices of piety and means of sanctification, 
they should také care to utilize the fundamental means of sanctification before selecting this or 
that secondary practice of piety. Thus the frequent use of the sacraments, devout attendance at 
Mass, fidelity in the practice of daily prayer, the performance of the works of mercy -- these are 
basic practices that should play a dominant part in the spirituál life of the laity. 

It is not unusual to find that the laity put greater emphasis on certain private devotions or 
secondary means of sanctification and neglect those things that are of greater importance. 
Moreover, it frequently happens that the laity identify a pian of life with certain observances that 
are proper to the religious or priestly statě. The life of the religious or the priest is not a life 
suited to the laity and consequently it would be a serious error for a lay person to attempt to live 

an adapted form of ťhe religious life. The pian of life utilized by a husband or wife, a father or 
mother, or a member of the various professions in the world should be orientated to an 
ever-increasing love of God but placed within the framework of the duties of the individual in his 
or her particular vocation or profession. Perhaps the best rule to follow in drawing up such a pian 
of life is to ensure that nothing in the schedule would make it impossible or difficult for the 
individual to fulfill the duties of his or her vocation or profession. 


The diocesan priest and members of secular institutes are sometimes exposed to the samé 
dangers and difficulties that threaten the lay person who has no definite pian of life. The 
diocesan priest must be in the world, but not of the world. His apoštoláte is such that it keeps him 
in constant contact with the people, and for that reason his way of life is evident to all. He must 
therefore, be conscious of his personál obligation to strive for holiness and to give good example 
to the faithful. It goes without saying that he needs some schedule or pian of life as an individual 
Christian, and also in view of the demands of his priestly apoštoláte. 

In this respect, he must avoid the samé mistake the laity must avoid, námely, attempting to live a 
watered-down religious life. The diocesan priest is above all a man of the people, and although it 
may prove very satisfying to follow a pian of life that would provide many hours of recollection 
and solitude, he would run the risk of withdrawing too much from the people he has been sent to 
serve. At the other extréme, the diocesan priest without any pian of life is a constant 
contradiction in the eyes of his people; they cannot understand how a priest would be a worthy 
priest and still give no sign of regularity in the practices of the spirituál life. A priest is expected 
to be a man of temperate and regular habits, to be available at all times for the needs of his 
people, to háve that delicate sense of prudence that enables him to be in the world without 
becoming worldly. 

The diocesan priest should seek to draw up a pian of life enabling him to dedicate himself 
completely to his apoštoláte and at the 4 samé time to utilize certain hours of the day for his own 
personál sanctification. Unlike the religious priest, the diocesan priest does not háve a schedule 
of daily life provided for him by a rule; except for s the demands of his ministry and the care of 
souls, he is left to himself R regarding the schedule of his daily life. 


Although religious háve a definite schedule for community exercises, they also need a pian of 
life for their personál exercises. Community prayerand spirituál reading provide important 
materiál for meditation and private recollection, but there is still the guestion of arranging those 
hours that are left to the personál initiative of the individual religious. It is a strange paradox to 
find in a religious house certain individuals who attend the community exercises regularly and 
perform their duties faithfully but use their free time to do absolutely nothing. It is as if they 
erroneously believed that they should do nothing except that which is explicitly demanded of 
them by their rule or their superior. 

This is obviously a serious misunderstanding of the function of the vow of obedience, for it is 
precisely in those hours of freedom from explicitly commanded duties that the religious manifest 
the intensity of their desire to perfect themselves. The religious, therefore, whether living in a 

cloistered community or in one of the active institutes, will always háve some free time that can 
be put to good use or simply wasted. It is for these free hours that the pian of life should provide, 
and it is in this area that the zealous religious will prudently arrange a schedule of life allowing 
for reasonable relaxation and at the samé time preventing slothfulness. 

It is a prudent practice to give the pian a period of trial. The first reguisite is that the pian of life 
must be adapted to the duties of one's statě, to one's profession or work, to one's disposition of 
spirit to one's character and temperament, to one's strength of body, to the degree of perfection 
already attained, and to the attractions of grace. Moreover, the pian of life should be at once rigid 
and flexible. It needs a certain rigidity in order to give regularity and constancy to one's life; it 
must be flexible in order to allow for dispensations or adaptations when the need arises, or for 
substitutions and changes as one's needs vary. If there is a reasonable cause for departing from 
the schedule under given circumstances, the individual should not hesitate to do so, but one 
should nevěr depart from the pian of life without a reasonable and justifying cause. 

Spirituál Reading 

The attentive and assiduous reading of spirituál books is an efficacious aid to the practice of 
prayer and the acguisition of knowledge of spirituál doctrine. It is a laudable custom to háve at 
hand a book of spirituality that can be read from time to time as one's occupation permits. A 
good book will not only renew the desire to strive for greater perfection, but it will impart 
invaluable knowledge conceming the spirituál life. 

Not all spirituál books, however, háve the samé value or sanctifying efficacy. Objectively, 
Sacred Scripture should hold the first pláce, r: and especially those parts that are most instructive 
and doctrinal. Nevertheless, not all persons are able, for one reason or another, to obtain the 
maximum benefits from reading Sacred Scripture. This applies especially to the Old Testament, 
for there is no doubt that the New Testament, especially the Gospels and the Epistles, can be read 
by all with great benefit. 

The lives of the saints can also be a source of edification and instruction, but here it is necessary 
to remark that one should be selective in the choice of biographies. If too much emphasis is 
placed on the extraordinary in the life of a given saint, the reader may acguire a distaste for such 
books or a feeling of incredulity regarding the veracity of such phenomena. What is worse, the 
reader may attempt to imitate particular details in the life of a saint who belonged to a different 
age, a distinct culture, or lived in a statě of life having little or nothing in common with that of 
the reader. 

In generál, one should select spirituál books that offer solid and practical doctrine regarding the 
Christian life. And since moods of the individual vary greatly, the book ušed at a given time is 
not always the one that is most beneficial at that time. Some books may be of great value in a 
particular period of a persohs spirituál development but would cease to be of use later on. Other 
books would prove to be harmful to certain individuals because they are only beginners in the 
spirituál life, because of their lack of understanding of spirituál doctrine, or because of some 
particular defect at a given time. 

Once a book has been selected for spirituál reading, it is of prime importance that it be read 
properly. Spirituál reading is not purely for reasons of study; it is an exercise of piety. Although 

it is trne that one derives much instruction through the reading of spirituál books, the ultimate 
purpose is to arouse one's love of God and to intensity one's desire for perfection. Hence the 
important thing is not to read many t: books but to assimilate what is read. 

Sometimes it is very beneficial to reread certain sections of a book .or to retům again and again 
to the samé book so that its doc trine can be deeply impressed upon the mind and heart. The 
important thing to be kept in mind about spirituál reading is that we 

should use a book as long as we need it and can derive benefit from it. Sometimes it is necessary 
to resist the temptation to change books freguently, without ever finishing any one book. 

It would be egually erroneous, however, to believe that we must necessarily finish every book 
that is started. If we begin a book that proves unsatisfactory, the prudent thing to do is to select a 
different book rather than waste time on something that is not beneficial. If the book is pro perly 
selected and properiy read, we will easily pass from reading to prayer, and sometimes the two 
exercises will be so dosely connected that we will not know when we ceased to read and began 
to pray. 

Holý Friendships 

Father Lacordaire (1802-61) once said that true friendship is a rare and divine thing, a sure mark 
of a noble soul, and one of the greatest rewards of true virtue. We read in Sacred Scripture that a 
faithful friend is a powerful protector and that anyone who has found such a friend has found a 
treasure (Sir. 6:14-16). The truth of these statements is evident from daily experience. A virtuous 
friend is one of the greatest inspirations for the conguest of šelf and the practice of good. 

True friendship is an alliance of souls who are united to do good. It is disinterested, generous, 
sincere, and patient to the point of heroism. True friendship does not know the meaning of 
duplicity or hypocrisy; it does not děny the defects that exist in the friends, but it enables them to 
love each other in špite of their defects and weaknesses. Neither is it a sensual love, because the 
love of true friendship must be a love that seeks primarily, not the good of oneself, but the good 
of the other. That is why the love of friendship is synonymous with true charity. 

There are three outstanding advantages that flow from a true and holý friendship. In the first 
pláce, a friend can be an intimate confidant to whom one can open the heart and receive advice 
and counsel when confronted with problems and doubts. Secondly, a friend can be a prudent and 
sympathetic corrector who will frankly point out one's defects and prevent many acts of 
imprudence. Trůnily, a friend will console in times of sorrow and will know how to select the 
proper words and remedies in times of trial. 

If true friendship has been highly praised, even by pagan philosophers, as one of the greatest 
blessings in a persohs sociál life, it is reasonable to expect That it can be a powerful aid in the 
attainment of perfection. The struggle for perfection is the work of a lifetime, and it demands 
fidelity in the face of many obstacles. Even heroic souls háve experienced the discouragement 
that comes from the recognition of the loftiness of the goal and the weakness of human nature. 
The love of a friend who has the samé high ideals can be a source of encouragement and 
inspiration in times of darkness. Through all the centuries of the Churchs existence there háve 
been outstanding examples of holý friendship in the lives of the saints. 

Since human love can so easily become tainted with selfishness and sensuality, however, it is 
necessary ťhat one maintain a strict vigilance lest one's love should exceed the limite of virtue 
and become an occasion of evil. For if it is trne that a good friend is a powerful stimulus to 
virtue, it is no less trne that one of the most destructive forces in the Christian life is that of a 
sinful friendship. St. Francis de Sales wams that it happens frequently that a human friendship 
begins in a virtuous manner but imperceptibly but surely becomes mixed with sensual love and 
finally terminates in camal love.(6) 

For this reason it is extremely important that one know the signs by which one can determine 
whether a friendship is sensual. The first and most evident sign of a sensual friendship is that it is 
exclusive. This exclusiveness is shown by the fact that the two friends withdraw from the 
company of others in orderto be alone, are annoyed if others join their company, and are jealous 
of each other to the point of becoming angry if one sees the other in the company of a third party. 
Secondly, a sensual friendship is characterized by possessiveness, which may reach such a point 
that one cannot tolerate the absence of the other, seeks to prolong conversations and visits 
unduly, and dominates the other person. Thirdly, sensual friendships are obsessive. At the 
slightest provocation one's thoughte tum to the friend; on entering a room the first person sought 
is the friend; the imagination seems always to be focused on the face of the friend, and this to the 
point of distraction in prayer or in the performance of one's duties. 

In order to avoid this type of friendship, which is harmful to the spirituál life, the best remedy is 
to prevent such a friendship from developing. As soon as any of the signs háve been noticed, one 
should react as to the symptoms of a disease. If, however, such a friendship has already been 
allowed to develop, it may be necessary to avoid any drastic and sudden measures but rather to 
let the friendship gradually cool until it can be rectified. Spirituál directors and confessors, who 
are prone to react violently to such friendships and to demand of their penitente an immediate 
and definitivě break between the friends, may unwittingly cause a psychological upheaval more 
serious than the disorder they hoped to cure.(7) 

Spirituál Direction 

Spirituál direction is the art of leading souls progressively from the beginning of the spirituál life 
to the height of Christian perfection. It is an art in the sense that spirituál direction is a practical 
science that, under the guidance of supernatural prudence, applies to a particular čase the 
principles of the theology of Christian perfection. It is orientated to the perfection of the 
Christian life, but this direction must be given progressively, that is, according to the strength 
and need of the soul at a given time. The direction should begin as soon as the soul has definitely 
resolved to travel along the road to Christian perfection and should continue through all the 
phases of that joumey. 

Although it is true that individuals háve attained sanctity without a spirituál director -- which 
proves that spirituál direction is not absolutely necessary -- normally those who háve reached 
perfection háve had the counsel and advice of a spirituál director. In the ordinary providence of 
God, spirituál direction of some kind is morally necessary for the attainment of Christian 

Is it necessary that the spirituál director be a priest? We can answer without hesitation that 
normally the director should be a priest. There are many reasons for this. 

First of all, the priest usually has both the ťheoretical and tne practical knowledge required for 
the direction of souls. Second, the function of spirituál director is dosely related to the office of 
confessor. A third reason is the grace of the priesthood. Fourth, the practice of the Church 
forbids any person who is not a priest even religious superiors, to probe into matters of 

Nevertheless, it is possible that in a particular čase spirituál direction could be given by a prudent 
and experienced person who is not a priest. There is ample testimony in the history of the Church 
to justify such direction because of peculiar circumstances; for example, some of the hermits in 
the desert and the primitive monks who were not priests, and the direction given by St. Francis of 
Assisi, St. Ignatius Loyola before his ordination, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Teresa of Avila. 

How does one receive the office of spirituál director? If it is a question of a priest he receives the 
remote power from God and the Church when he is ordained to the priesthood and given the 
commission to sanctify souls through his priestly ministry. But the direction of a particular soul 
is based upon two essential factors: the free election of the one directed and the free acceptance 
by the director. No human power can oblige any individual to accept spirituál direction from a 
particular director. Even religious and seminarians retain their liberty when it is a question of the 
choice of a personál spirituál director. When a bishop assigns a particular priest to be confessor 
to religious, this is doně simply to facilitate the weekly confession of the religious, but it in no 
way obligates any religious to také that priest as a spirituál director.{9) The office of confessor is 
not necessarily identified with the office of spirituál director. 

On the part of the director, it should be observed that a pastor and those priests who are officially 
given the care of souls in a parish are bound in justice to hear the confessions of their subjects 
whenever they reasonably request it. In čase of urgent necessity, all confessors are bound in 
charity to hear the confessions of the faithful. (lO) Spirituál direction in the strict sense of the 
word, however, even in those cases in which it is given during sacramental confession, is a 
function completely distinct from the administration of the sacrament of penance. There is no 
divine or ecclesiastical law, therefore, which imposes upon any priest a strict obligation to accept 
the office of spirituál director. A priest is always free to accept or to refuse such an office, 
although it is true that he would be performing an excellent act of charity if he were to accept the 

Since it frequently happens that spirituál direction is given during sacramental confession, it is 
necessary to point out the difference between confession and spirituál direction. The purpose of 
spirituál direction is to lead a soul to the perfection of the Christian life, and therefore the 
spirituál director is essentially a teacher, counselor, and guide. The confessor is above all a judge 
who possesses power in the intemal forum and can, within the limits of his jurisdiction, strictly 
obligáte the penitent. His basic mission is to pardon sins in the name of God, and to do this it is 
sometimes necessary for him to dispose the penitent forvalid sacramental absolution. The 
spirituál director as such does not possess jurisdiction in the internal forum; he cannot obligáte 
the person directed unless the individual has voluntarily made a promise of obedience to the 
director; nor does he háve as his purpose the forgiveness of sin, but the gradual perfection of the 
soul in view of sanctity. 

This raises the question of whether it is necessary or fitting that the spirituál director should also 
be the ordinary confessor of the one who is directed. The answer is that it is not strictly 

necessary, but it is fitting and convenient. It could not be said that one's spirituál director must of 
necessity be the confessor, because the two functions are distinct and separable. (ll) Moreover, it 
may happen that a priest is a good confessor but does not possess the qualifications necessary for 
the direction of a particular soul. But because of the intimate relation between the offices of 
confessor and spirituál director, it is fitting that one and the samé person fulfill both functions 
whenever possible. There are several reasons for this: it gives greater authority to the director; it 
makes it possible to give spirituál direction in the confessional; it enables the director to know 
the soul more perfectly. 

We háve mentioned that some priests may be qualified as confessors but not suitable as spirituál 
directors. This signifies that there are definite qualities required for the office of spirituál 
direction. Some of these qualities are essential to spirituál direction as such; others are required 
of the person who is to give the direction. The first may be called technical qualities, and the 
second may be considered as moral qualities. 

Technical Qualities of the Director 

Perhaps no writer has outlined with such clarity and precision the technical qualities of a good 
spirituál director as háve St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. She states that a good 
spirituál director should be leamed, prudent, and experienced. St. John of the Cross also 
maintains that a director should be learned, prudent and experienced, and he places great 
emphasis on experience. 

Learning. The leaming of a spirituál director should be extensive. In addition to having a 
profound knowledge of dogmatic theology, without which he would be exposed to error in 
regard to matters of faith, and of moral theology, without which he could not even fulfill the 
office of confessor, the spirituál director should háve a thorough knowledge of ascetical and 
mystical theology. He should know, for example, the theological doctrine concerning Christian 
perfection, especiaHy regarding such questions as the essence of perfection, the obligation to 
strive for perfection, the obstacles to perfection, the types of purgation, and the means of positive 
growth in virtue. He should háve a detailed knowledge of the grades of prayer, the trials God 
usually sends to souls as they advance from the lower to the higher degrees of prayer, and the 
illusions and assaults of the devil that souls may encounter. 

He also needs to be well versed in psychology so that he will háve an understanding of various 
temperaments and characters, the influences to which the human personality is subjected, and the 
function of the emotions in the life of the individual. He should also know at least the basic 
principles of abnormal psychology and psychiatry so that he will be able to recognize mental 
unbalance and nervous or emotional disorders. 

A priest should realize that, if he is not competent to direct a particular soul, he should advise the 
individual to go to someone who possesses the necessary knowledge. A priest incurs a grave 
responsibility before God if he attempts to direct a soul when he lacks sufficient knowledge. In 
recent times, with the wider dissemination of knowledge of mental illness, the priest must 
especially be wamed that, as regards the field of psychiatry and the therapeutic methods proper 
to that branch of medicine, he is a mere "layman" and is incompetent to treat mental sickness. If 
he suspects that a penitent is suffering from a mental illness, he should direct that individual to a 
professional psychiatrist, just as readily as he would expect a psychiatrist to refer spirituál 

problems to a clergyman. 

Prudence. This is one of the most important qualities for a spirituál director. It comprises three 
basic factors: prudence injudgment, clarity in counseling, and firmness in exacting obedience. 

If a spirituál director lacks prudence, he is usually lacking several other virtues as well. Prudence 
enables an individual to do the right thing under given circumstances. Spirituál direction is not 
concemed with the generál doctrine of spirituál theology, nor with theoretical situations that one 
may imagine, but with the individual soul placed in concrete circumstances at a given moment or 
in a given phase of spirituál growth. 

The director is not called upon to make decisions regarding generál doctrine; most people could 
find such answers in any standard manuál of spirituál theology. The directoťs role is precisely to 
recognize the particular circumstances of a given situation and to give the advice needed at that 
moment. In order that the advice be prudent, a spirituál director must háve the empathy by which 
he is able to pláce himself in the given circumstances and must háve the patience to listen 
attentively. Of the various factors that militate against prudence, the following are especially 
common: lack of knowledge of the various states of the ascetical and mystical life, lack of 
understanding of human psychology, prejudice in regard to particular states of life or particular 
exercises of piety, lack of humility, excessive eagerness to make a judgment. 

The second characteristic of prudence in the spirituál director is clarity in the advice given to the 
one directed and in the norms of conduct prescribed. In order that he may be clear in his 
direction, he must. possess clarity in his own mind. In speaking to the soul he is directing, he 
should avoid any vague or indecisive language, but should always express himself in concrete 
and definite terms. He should resolve problems with a yes or a no and, if necessary, he should 
také the time for further deliberation before making his decision. If a soul perceives that the 
director is not sure of himself, it will lose confidence in him, and his direction will lose all its 

Moreover, the director should always be sincere and frank, without any partiality or selfish 
motives. It would be a serious fault if a director were to avoid offending the person directed lest 
that person should go to some other priest for direction. Those priests who pláce great 
importance in attracting and retaining a large number of followers are, by that very fact, 
disposing themselves to failure as spirituál directors. The director should nevěr forget that he acts 
in the name of the Holý Spirit in directing souls, and that he must endeavor to treat those souls 
with kindness and- understanding, but with firmness and utter frankness. 

The director must also také care that he does not become the one who is directed. Some persons 
are extremely competent in 1 getting their own way in everything, and even the director is in 
danger of falling under their power. For that reason, once the director is certain of his decision 
and the course that should be followed; he should statě his mind with unyielding firmness. The 
individual must be convinced that there are only two altematives: to obey or to find another 

But the director should not forget that he should nevěr demand of a soul anything that is 
incompatible with its statě of life or vocation, its strength, or present condition. He should realize 
that there are some things that can be demanded of advanced souls but could nevěr be required of 

beginners; that some things would be perf ectiy fitting in dealing with a priest or religious but n